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A thesis presented to the Faculty of the U.S. Army 
Command and General Staff College in partial 
fulfillment of the requirements for the 




B.S., United States Military Academy, 1974 
M.A., Hofstra University, 1980 




> OCT 3 1986 



Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 



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Strategic and Operational Implications of Iranian Military Operations in the Iran-Iraq War 





from 8-1985 to6-1986 I 1986 June 6 I 105 


IT _ COSATI COOES I 18. SUBJECT TERMS (Continue on reverse if necessary and identify by block number) 

group | sub-group |Iran-Iraq War, Iranian Army, Iranian Revolution, operational 

Analysis, Fighting Power, Persian Gulf, Shaw of Iran, 
von Clausewitz, \/an Creveld, Strategic Analysis 

’9 ABSTRACT (Continue on reverse if necessary and identify by block number) 

See reverse side. 






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The progess of the Iren-Iraq War has surprised 
analysts. In order of gain insight into events in the region 
and their implications, I propose an analytical framework 
using Carl Von Clausewitz and Martin Van Creveld, which is 
used to analyze the military worth of the Islamic Iranian 

The thesis has three logical steps leading to the 
eventual conclusion. First* the Imperial Iranian Armed 
Forces were fundamentally flawed. From its inception under 
Reza Shah* the people* army* government trinity had fatal 
cracks throughout. Muhammed Reza Pahlavi* attempting to 
build on the same structure* increased the pressure on the 
people* army* government trinity* resulting in a collapse. 

The weaknesses of this trinity was demonstrated by the 
patent inability of the army to defeat the revolution in 
spite* or even because of* the lavish augmentation of 

Second* the Islamic Iranian army proved to have 
remarkable power and resilience in the Iran-Iraq War. 
Surprised by a powerful invader* hampered by desertion* 
eroding equipment* and unreliable logistics* the Iranian 
Armed Forces resisted the attack and went on the offensive. 
Actions were characterized by courage and fighting power* 
excellent staff work* and operational level planning. 

Third* the change in the Armed Forces was causally 
linked to the impact of the Islamic Revolution on the 
people* army* government trinity. The strong bond between 
Khomeini and the people* and the new army legitimacy and 
ethic* had a multiplicative effect on the military 
capability of the army. The result was an army with 
resilience* flexibility* and potential for real growth in 
military power. 

The war* paradoxically* has had a stabilizing effect on 
the Persian Gulf Region. The region now has a viable 
collective security organization* less vulnerable oil lines 
of communications* and is carefully watched and guarded by 
the U.S. However* the war* when it ends* is likely to have a 
destabilizing effect on Iran’s neighbors. Iran has the 
military growth potential to become the dominant regional 
power with a capability to challenge the Superpowers for 
control of the Persian Gulf. 



A thesis presented to the Faculty of the U.S. Army 
Command and General Staff College in partial 
fulfillment of the requirements for the 




B.S.i United States Military Academy* 1974 
M.A., Hofstra University* 1980 


Fort Leavenworth* Kansas 

I);i5TKi : *Unor UNLIMITED. 

Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited 


Approved by: 

^ (.Utr-j _ 

George? w' Gatoryen, Ph.D. 

, Thesis Committee Chairman 

Bobby I>J Childress, Ph.D. 

, Member, Graduate Faculty 

Accepted this 6th day of:June 1986 by: 

Philip J. Brookes, Ph.D. 

_, Director, Graduate Degree 

The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those 
of: the student author and do not necessarily represent 
the views of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff:College 
or any other government agency. (References to this study 
should include the foregoing statement.) 


OPERATIONS IN THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR: An analysis of the modern 
Iranian Army from Reza Shah to the Iran-Iraq War. Focus is 
on the effect of the revolution on the Iranian Army’s 
fighting power* by Donald H. Zacherl, USA, 106 pages. 

The progess of the Iran-Iraq War has surprised 
analysts. In order of gain insight into events in the region 
and their implications, I propose an analytical framework 
using Carl Von Clausewitz and Martin Van Creveld, which is 
used to analyze the military worth of the Islamic Iranian 

••-The thesis has three logical steps leading to the 
eventual conclusion. First, the Imperial Iranian Armed 
Forces were fundamentally flawed. From its inception under 
Reza Shah, the people, army, government trinity had fatal 
cracks throughout. Muhammed Reza Pahlavi, attempting to 
build on the same structure, increased the pressure on the 
people, army, government trinity, resulting in a collapse. 
The weaknesses of this trinity was demonstrated by the 
patent inability of the army to defeat the revolution in 
spite, or even because of, the lavish augmentation of 

Second, the Islamic Iranian army proved to have 
remarkable power and resilience in the Iran-Iraq War. 
Surprised by a powerful invader, hampered by desertion, 
eroding equipment, and unreliable logistics, the Iranian 
Armed Forces resisted the attack and went on the offensive. 
Actions were characterized by courage and fighting power, 
excellent staff work, and operational level planning. 

Third, the change in the Armed Forces was causally 
linked to the impact of the Islamic Revolution on the 
people, army, government trinity. The strong bond between 
Khomeini and the people, and the new army legitimacy and 
ethic, had a multiplicative effect on the military 
capability of the army. The result was an army with 
resilience, flexibility, and potential for real growth in 
military power.—* 

The war, paradoxically, has had a stabilizing effect on 
the Persian Gulf Region. The region now has a viable 
collective security organization, less vulnerable oil lines 
of communications, and is carefully watched and guarded by 
the U.S. However, the war, when it ends, is likely to have a 
destabi1izing effect on Iran’s neighbors. Iran has the 
military growth potential to become the dominant regional 
power with a capability to challenge the Superpowers for 
control of the Persian Gulf. 


As with most research topics? this one evolved from a 
grander? more ^weeping idea? and was reduced by limitations 
in time? resources? and by simple common sense. I owe a 
great deal to Dr. Gawrych? of the Combat Studies Institute? 
who constantly encourged me? patiently corrected my repeated 
errors? and helped me maintain my perspective. I also owe a 
debt of gratitude to Dr. Childress? of the Department of 
Joint and Combined Operations? who sifted out my 
methodological errors? and pressed me to defend each logical 
step. Without their efforts and en couragement? the thesis 
would have been a different? and far poorer? product. 

I also would like to acknowledge the help of two other 
scholars: Carl Von Clausewitz and Martin Van Creveld. My 
research and analysis did not coalesce until I read? and 
then re-read? their writings. To the extent I have 
adequately applied Clausewitz and adapted Van Creveld? a 
more complete under standing of contemporary events in Iran 
is possible. 

Finally? but most importantly? I owe a great and 
continuing debt to my wife? Marianne? who made it possible 
for me to have the time to work. 

Any errors in the thesis are entirely my own. 

VK V% i.~m i-*» * - 



Chapter One Thesis Intent* Analytical Framework, Chapter 
Organisation* and Significance. 1 

Chapter Tuio The Evolution of the Iranian Army from 

Re~a Shah to the Islamic Revolution. 14 

Chapter Three The Post-revolutionary Army and 

the Iran-Iraq War... 33 

Chapter Four The Effect of the Islamic Revolution 

on the Iranian Army. ... 65 

Chapter Five Conclusions and Analysis. 86 

Maps. 9 6 

Selected Bibliography. 100 

Distribution. 105 






By Donald H. Zacherl, MAJ, USA 

Chapter One 

Thesis Intent, Analytical Framework, 
Chapter Organization, 
and Significance 

"War is more than a true chameleon that slightly adapts 
its characteristics to the given case. As a total phenomenon 
its dominant tendencies always make war a paradoxical 
trinity—composed of primordial violence, hatred and enmity, 
which are to be regarded as blind natural force; of the play 
of chance and probability within which the creative spirit 
is free to roam; and of its element of subordination, as an 
instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason 

•cesr.i -xi . 


Carl Von Clausewitz 

I intend to show that Iranian army’s Military Worth was 
significantly changed by the Islamic revolution. The nature 
of this change, I suggest, was a fundamental realignment of 
the three elements of war: the people, the army, and the 
government. As a result, the military balance of power has 
radically altered with significant effect on the strategic 
situation in the Persian Gulf region. 

The thesis has four steps. The first step will show 
that the Military Worth, as defined by Martin Van Creveld, 
of the pre-revolutionary army was weaker than it appea> ed 
because of the weak linkage between the three fundamental 
elements. The second step analyzes the performance of the 
Iranian army in the Iran-Iraq War, demonstrating its high 
level of military performance. The third step identifies the 
Islamic revolution _vs the proximate cause of the 
strengthened people-army-government linkage. The fourth step 
will speculate on the strategic and operational implications 
for the use of landpower in the region. 

II. Analytical Framework. 

It was necessary to adopt a new analytical framework 
for two reasons. First, military events in Iran were, and 
are, unpredictable.* At the time of the Revolution, for 
example, the Imperial Iranian Armed Forces were fifth 

largest in the world and largest in the region.^ A military 
modernization program continued up to the Shah’s departure, 
and included 12 billion dollars in purchases from the United 
States alone.^ Neither was the Shah’s army inexperienced in 
internal control operations. In fact, it was its primary 


use. Yet, outside observers, counting the size and quality 
of the military equipment in the Iranian army, were 
surprized by its failure to successfully oppose the 

The perseverence of the Iranian armed forces in the 
Iran-Iraq War was equally unexpected. Analysts, in and 
outside the region, including Saddam Hussein, were 
unpleasantly surprized by Iran’s resistance to the invasion 
and its subsequent successes on the battlefield. So 
confident was Saddam Hussein, in fact, that he was on the 
verge of announcing the annexation of Khuzestan shortly 
after the invasion began.^ The shock of the successful 
Iranian counteroffensive in 1982 caused a major strategic 
shift by the Gulf Cooperation Council from supporting Iraq 
to pressing for a ceasefire.^ 5 Most recently, the renewed 
Iranian offensive once again caught the world by surprize. 

Up until the recent large scale attacks, it was assumed that 
Iran was too exhausted to carry on the war. 1 

Secondly, the Islamic Revolution in Iran was a profound 
and genuinely unique political, social, and religious event 
which may prove to be on the same scale and importance as 


the French and Russian Revolutions. Previous analytical 

frameworks have not addressed the combined effect on the 

people, army, government linkage. 

The analytical framework adopted is a combination of 

two related, and simple, paradigms: Carl Von Clausewitz’s 

model of the nature of war and Martin Van Creveld’s 

formulation of Military Worth. Although each framework is 


simple, sometimes "the simple things are difficult". 

A clear understand!ng of the linkage between them is 
vital. I will clarify the relationship by first explaining 
Van Creveld’s formulation, then Von Clausewitz’s model, and 
finally the way I have linked them in the thesis. 

Van Creveld defines the Military Worth (Wm) of an army 
as equal to the Quality <Q1> and Quantity <Q2) of is 
equipment mulitplied by its Fighting Power (Pf). 1 ® I have 
expressed this as follows: 

Wm = <Q1 + Q2)Pf 

The Quality and Guanity of equipment are additive: both the 
number of tanks and their excellence as tanks are vital. 

Put another way, a smaller number of excellent American 
tanks are often equated to larger numbers of poorer quality 
Soviet tanks. These two factors are measurable, and armies 
spend enormous resources and effort measuring the size and 
quality of opposing forces military equipment. 

Fighting Power is defined as "the sum total of the 
mental qualities that make an army fight".** It manifests it 
self in discipline, cohesion, morale, initiative, courage, 
toughness, and the willingness to fight and die. ^ Fighting 
Power is multiplicative and has greater immediate effect 
than the Quality and Quantity of equipment. However, a very 
high level of Fighting Power can not overcome very low 
levels of poor equipment. If either set of components are 
reduced to near zero, the Military Worth is near zero, 
regardless of the elements when separately valued. 

Fighting power is more difficult to measure than the 
Quality and Quantity of equipment. Detailed objective data 
on the Iranian army’s discipline, cohesion, and morale, is 
virtually impossible to obtain and what little exists is of 
limited value in any case. However, Van Creveld provides an 
insight into the secret of Fighting Power. The secret of 
Fighting Power lies in the relationship between the armed 
forces and society, the powerful influence of religious and 
ideological beliefs, and primary group cohesion."'^ Von 
Clausewitz’s model of the nature of war will provide the 
tool to unlock this secret. 

Clausewitz reduces the nature of war to "a remarkable 
trinity"! animus, estimates, and political objectives. 
Animus, which mainly concerns the people, is blind, violent 
hatred as a natural force. Estimates, which are the province 
of the commander and his army, is the play of chance and 

probability. Political objectives, uihich is the concern of 
the government alone, is the realm of reason and policy. War 
exists in a balance between these three tendencies, “like an 
object suspended bewteen three magnets".^ 

“These three tendencies are like three different codes of 
law, deep rooted in their subject and yet variable in their 
relationship to one another."*^ 


Van Creveld’s secret of Fighting Power; resting on the 
relationshi p between the armed forces, society, and personal 
beliefs, echoes the relationshi p in Von Clausewitz’s 
remarkable trinity. By examining the Iranian people, army 
and Government, (the Clausewitzean elements), I can 
determine the nature of Iranian Fighting Power,(in Van 
Creveld’s formulation). Applying Fighting Power to the 
Quality and Quantity of equipment, I can then estimate the 
Iranian army’s Military Worth. An accurate estimate of the 
Iranian army’s Military Worth allows more accurate analysis 
of the implications for the region. 

III. Organization. 

Chapter one, which is the current chapter, addresses 
the thesis intent, analytical framework, organization, and 


The purpose of Chapter two is to examine the 
Pre-revolutionary Iranian army using the methodology 
outlined. Chapter tu»o sets the historical background of the 
Pre-revolutionary army beginning with its birth under Reza 
Shah and its development under his son, Mohhammed Reza Shah. 
It concludes with an analysis of the pre-revolutionary 
army’s Military Worth; the quality and quanitity of 
equipment and an estimate of its fignting power based on an 
analysis of the people, army, government relationship. 

Chapter three examines the military performance of the 
Iranian army during the Iran-Iraq war. Chapter three shows 
that the Iranian army’s Military Worth significantly 
improved despite a steady deterioration in the Quality and 
Quantity of equipment; the inescapable conclusion is the 
Fighting Power has significantly improved. 

If the Iranian army’s Military Worth has improved as a 
result of a significantly improved Fighting Power, what was 
the cause? Chapter four examines the army from the time of 
the Revolution up to the Iraqi invasion to determine if the 
bond between the people, the army, and the State, changed in 
such a way that Fighting Power was enhanced. 

Chapter five sumarizes the thesis conclusions and 
speculates on the strategic use of landpower in the region. 

IV. Significance 

There are four primary reasons for the significance of 
the region and hence the thesis! oil, geopolitical position, 
superpower interest, and the war itself <both in respect to 
the other three factors and for purely professional and 
intellectual reasons). 

The importance of oil and the Persian Gulf does not 
appear to require strenous justification. The majority of 
the region’s petroleum exports still exit through the Gulf, 
although this has diminished as a result of the war. Never- 
the-less, 58V of the world’s known oil reserves are in the 
Gulf Region. Of that, \ 6 '/. are in Iran, as well as 20*/. of the 
world’s known natural gas reserves. Approximately one third 
of the world’s petroleum production and 30V. of the US 
petroleum imports are from the Gulf region. Europe and Japan 
import 70V of their petroleum products from the Gulf. 16 
Although considerable effort by petroleum importers has gone 
into reducing their dependence on the region, the long term 
importance of the region is clear. 

Oil is even more important to the Gulf exporters. 
Greater that 82V of the GNP of the Gulf states is made up of 
oil revenues. 1 ^, although oil revenues made up only 22V of 
Iran’s GNP before the war. As result, Iran may be less 
concerned over oil revenue and, therefore, Gulf stability 

than her neighbours. 

Iran’s geopolitical position justifies its 

significance, even without the importance of oil. Iran sits 

at the conjunction of the Asian and Arab world and is 

athwart vital petroleum trade routes. A 500 mile radius of 

her borders, reachable by modern combat aircraft, includes 

virtually all of the Caspian Sea, the Persian gulf, Oman, 

Kuwait, the smaller Gulf states, and Saudi Arabia’s oil 


fields and ports. In addition, Iran borders on Iraq, 

Turkey, Russia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and controls the 

Persian Gulf islands astride the traffic lanes for oil 

tankers. Should Iran achieve sufficient military power and 

motive, it impact would be enormous. 

Terrain and the presence of resources are not relevant 

unless the policies of the powers in the region are taken 

into acount. The region is of particular and acute interest 

to both the superpowers. Iran in high among Soviet 

extranational priorities and is an area of historical 


Russian strategic interest. Premier Brezhnev listed the 

Persian Gulf as among the Soviet Uniona two highest 

extranational pr ior i t ies. The Soviet Union has had, since 

1921m a "treaty of friendship" which requires Iran to 

prevent "anti-soviet" activities in Iran in exchange for a 


promise of non-intervention. The USSR has supported 
separatist movements in Iran, is involved in the Tudeh 
(Masses) party. Additionally, the Soviet Union recently 

began a program designed to increse her power projection 


into the region. 

Additionally) Iran is specifically covered by the 
Carter doctrine) which established the region as an area of 
vital US interests. It is an area of specific contingency 
operations by USCENTCOM US Central Command) and USREDCOM (US 
Readiness Command). The US has responded to threats to close 

the Gulf by military reinforcement and a promise to keep the 


Gulf open and free to traffic. 

Finally) the current government in Iran is largely 
unaffected by attempts to modify its foreign policy. Its 
open hostility to the "Great Satan" (the US)) and the 
"Lesser Satan" (the USSR)) has meant that it owes no 
allegiance to either Superpower. Further) its position as an 
energy supplier gives it more economic flexibility than its 
neighbours and allows it relative economic independence. It 
support of terrorism and refusal to act in concert with 
other regional nations has further isolated it politically. 
In sum) its foreign policy) regionally and globally) is 
relatively encumbered and unpredictable. 

The danger is that the Persian Gulf Region) which is 
vital to both the Superpowers) is in danger of domination by 
a hostile nation that is largely beyond their influence. 

The war itself is significant for policy and 
professional reasons. First) the strong Iranian resistence 
and subsequent stunning successes were completely 

unexpected, as was earlier related. Additionally, the 
tactical, operational, and strategic aspects are not well 
known or understood. Until Iranian military power and the 
Iran-Iraq war is more adequately understood, reliable 
estimates are unachievable. As a result, policy regarding 
Iran is likely to be ineffective. 

Second, the war is, or ought to be, of intense 
professional interest. It is a major, modern, sustained mid 
to high intensity conflict which has included repetitive, 
sequential, multi-division operations, and tactical 
innovation. It included the heavy use of chemical weapons 
and strategic rockets, and conventional strikes on nuclear 
targets. Further, the lessons of the war are untainted by 
Superpower logistical sponsership, unlike the Arab-Israeli 
Wars, and is a better harbinger of future conflicts of this 
type. Additionally, it allows an insight into the Iranian 
and Islamic military tradition, the Islamic revolution and 
the Iranian military leader. 

Given Iran’s potential as an aggressive, militant, and 
well resourced force, a real understanding of the war is 
essential. A new army, and a new leadership, born in 
revolution, fired by religious zeal, and tempered by war, is 
arising. The forces that have shaped and are shaping this 
potential military power in one of the most volatile and 
vital areas of Superpower interest are of global 



1. Robert G. Neumann, Foreward to Iran-Iraq War! 
Islam Embattled , by Stephen R. Grummon, (Washington, D.C. : 
Praeger Publishers, 19S2), p. viii. 

2. Nader Entessar, "Military and Politics in the 
Islamic Republic of Iran," (Spring Hill College, Department of 
Political Science, Mobile, Alabama, 1985), p. 2.( Paper 
prepared for 19th Annual Meeting of the Middle East Studies 
Association, November, 1985.) 

3. John M. Smith, "Where was the Shah’s Army?," (Ft. 
Leavenworth, Kansas, 1980), p. 2. (Master of Military Art and 
Science Thesis, PO Registr N19052.421-31) 

4. Richard F. Nyrop, ed., Irani A Country Study , DA 
Pam 550-68, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing 
Office, 1978), p. 398. 

5. Anthony H. Cordesman, The Gulf and the Search for 
Strategic Stability: Saudi Arabia, the Military Balance in the 

and Trends in the Arab-Israeli Military Balance 

(Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1984), p. 648. 

Ibid. , 


7. Barry Rubin, "Middle East: Search for Peace," 
Foreign Affairs? America and the World , (Location: Publisher 
1986), p. 599. 

8. George W. Gawrych, "The Iranian Revolution", 
Lecture Presented to US Army Command and General Staff 
College as part of Individual Development Course Mi 1itary 
History of the Middle East , February, 1986. 

9. Carl Von Clausewitr, On War , trans. and ed. by 
Michael Howard and Peter Paret, (Princeton, New Jersey: 
Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 119. 

10. Martin Van Creveld, Fighting Power? German 
Military Performance, 1914-1945 , (Carlisle Barracks, 

Pennsylvannia? Art of War Colloqium Publication, 1983), pp. 

11. Ibid. 

12. Ibid. 

13. Ibid., 

pp. 1-2. 

14. Cl auseuii tz . , On War i p. 89. 

15. Ibid. 

16. "Jeers for Cheap Oil," The Economist , March? 
1986? p. 66. 

17. Anthony H. Cordesman?" The Gulf and the Search 
for Strategic Stability ? p. 42. 

18. CIA Map 503828 12-78? Iran ? Central Intelligence 
Agency? December? 1978. 

19. John C. Campbell. "Soviet Strategy in the Middle 
East?" American-Arab Affairs ? Spring? 1984? pp. 74-82. 

20. Joint Special Operations Agency lecture given at 
US Command and General Staff College? Feburary? 1986. 

21. Richard F. Nyrop? ed.? Irani A Study? p. 52. 

22. Anthony H. Cordesman?" The Gulf and the Search 
for Strategic Stability? p. 58. 

The Evolution of the Modern Iranian Army 
from Resa Shah to the Islamic Revolution 

"The first of these three aspects mainly concern the 
people? the second the commander and his army; the third the 
government...These three tendencies are like three different 
codes of lawi deep rooted in their subject and yet variable 
in their relationship to one another. A theory that ignores 
any one of them or seeks to fix an arbitrary relationship 
between them would conflict with reality to such an extent 
that for this reason alone it would be totally useless." 

Carl Von Clausewitc. 

The relationship between the people, the army and the 
government, is complex and changeable. To gain insight into 
the evolution of the modern Iranian army and its Fighting 
Power, I will trace the three Clausewitzean elements from 
Reza Khan, through his son Reza Muhammed Pahlavi, up to the 
Islamic revolution. This is done by dividing the pre¬ 
revolutionary period into two parts corresponding to the 
Pahlavi Shahs. 

Foundations of the Imperial Iranian Army. 

Reza Khan, later Reza Shah, was a semiliterate soldier 
who came to power through the army. His accomplishments were 
considerable. He built a national standing army virtually 
from scratch, introduced social change, expanded civil law, 
and promoted education, industria 1ization, and nationalism. 
The army which he built was the mainstay of his power. It 
became his personal instrument and was used against his 
opponents, including the Islamic clergy and the people when 

However, in spite of remarkable improvements in the 
army’s size and organization, it collapsed in 1941 when 
first seriously challenged by a comaparative force. So rapid 
and complete was its capitulation that Field Marshall Sir 
William Slim described it as "opera bouffe".* 

Before World War I t Iran had no national standing army. 
Three native armies, officered by foreigners, policed the 
country and acted in defense of the foreign interests in 
Iran. These were the Cossack brigade, lead by Czarist 
Russian Officers, the South Persia rifles, lead by British 
officers, and the Gendarmerie, a national police, lead by 
Swedish officers. 

The Bolshevik revolution upset the Russian-British 
balance in Iran, as well as caused the wi<Thdrawl of the 
Russian officers. This departure gave Reza Khan, who was an 
officer in the Cossack Brigade, to assume Command of the 
brigade which was garrisoned around Teheran. The Persian 
<3ajar regime, in an attempt balance the unmatched Pritsh 
power, appealed to the new Soviet Union for support. In 
1921, in the midst of negotiation over the "Treaty of 
Friendship", a revolution, supported by Peza Khan and the 
Cossack Brigade, seized power. (The 1921 Treaty of 
Friendship is often cited by the Soviet Union as legitmizing 
its interest in the internal events in Iran. No modern 
Iranian government recognizee it, which is natural 
considering the circumstances described). 

Reza Khan, who was made minister of war, proved 
resourceful and effective. He moved to form a single 
national army by unifying the separate forces; it was the 
first single army in Iran’s long history. He purged 
foreigners and reduced foreign influence in army 

organization? culture and language with an uncompromising 

However? in spite of his promotion of nationalist 
causes in every aspect of Iranian life? he valued the 
knowledge of the west and educated his son and his best 
officers abroad. In 1925? he persuaded the Majlis? the 
Iranain parliament? to introduce universal conscription. The 
Same year he was proclaimed Shah. 

Over the next fifteen years? officers loyal to him were 
placed in influential government positions. During the same 


period the army was expanded from 40,000 to 125?000.~ It 
became highly centralized under the direct control of the 
Shah as the Commander in Chief. Promotion, education, and 
perquisites were based on the Shah’s evaluation of the 
officer’s personal loyalty. Disloyalty was harshly 

Initially? conservative elements of the Majlis and 
religious leaders were allied with his programs? which they 
correctly interpreted as nationalistic and opposed to 
foreign influence. However? not all of the regimes reforms 
were well received. Many of Reza Shah’s nationalist goals 
were at odds with the Islamic clergy. With the introduction 
of a codified judicial system, the clergy lost its authority 


over civil law and religious trust funds. Marriage and 
divorce civil codes represented attempts to reduce clerical 
power? as did active programs to promote western dress and 

restrictions on wearing clerical garb. Religious instruction 
was placed under control of the government education system. 
Wearing of a veil by women was forbidden. 

Both the Re:a Shah and the Islamic clergy intended to 
influence the behavior of the people. The clergy, however, 
had a distinct advantage in their access to the people. 
Frequent attendance at services assured that the faithful 
heard the clerical viewpoint far more often than the 
government’s. Believing in the Koranic interpretation and 
administration of civil law by Islamic clergy, the 
governments credibility in the eyes of the people was 
gradually weakened, as was the people-government 
relationship. Correspondingly, the linkage between the 
clergy and the people grew stronger. 

Opposition to the Shah was repressed regardless of the 
source. Increasingly alarmed by the Soviet Union’s 
revolutionary influence, he eventually outlawed the 
communist party. Rebellion, whether tribal, political, or 
religious, was harshly repressed. The army, ostensibly 
designed to defeat foreign aggression, was primarily used in 
an internal security role, further weaking the people-army 

The army that Reza Shah developed was put to the test 
in 1941 when Iran was invaded by Britain and the Soviet 
Union. Pursuing neutrallity as the safest course, but 
accepting German technical advisers, Reca Shah would not 

*. w K 

allow the transport of allied material to the Soviet Union 
to cross Iran. As Churchill noted in description of this 
event, "Inter Arma, silent leges."—(between Armies, laws 
are silent)^. 

The British attacked on the 25th of August in the south 
from the Iraqi city of Basra with one division to capture 
Abadan and Khorramshahr, and in the west with one division 
from Giasr-e-Shirin toward Kermanshah. Although one brigade 
and one regiment was armored, they may have been less 
effective than the other attacking units, since they were 
road bound. 

The objective was to capture the Abadan oil fields, 
control communications, and secure a route to the Caspian 
sea. This plan was repeated virtually without change by the 
Iraqi’s almost 40 years later. The Soviets, fighting 
desperately with the Nazi’s on their west, did not put their 
best troops in the south to invade Iran. Never the less, 
they entered Azerbaijan, intending to push to Teheran. The 
total invading force, British and Soviet, was not more than 
seven division equivalents; five Russian and two 
Anglo-Indian. Iran was defended by five divisions. 

Reza Shah was clearly depending on the Military Worth 
of his army to resist the Anglo-Russian invasion. In a 
speech to the Majlis concerning possible invasion by Russian 
and British forces, he stated "Certainly we can count on our 

disciplined forces... 

In addition, he ordered the press 

and the Government propaganda apparatus to concentrate on 

informing the people on the world situation and the need for 
strength and resistance. 

Additionally, he refused ample opportunity to comply 
with allied demands and remained incalcitrant, preferring to 
offer battle instead. Defending with five Iranian divisions 
against a coalition of seven Russian and Anglo-Indian 
divisions is perfectly reasonable, if the divisions are of 
comparable Military Worth. Reza Shah clearly thought so, 
since he had confidence in his army, which he had expanded 
from 40,000 to 120,000, and had used it successfully as his 
personal instrument. 

There is no evidence to suggest that Reza Shah thought 
Churchill was bluffing. 7 Given the evident British and 
Russian need, commitment and capability, it would have been 
unreasonable to think the Anglo-Russian ultimatum was a 
ruse. However, even if the Reza Shah had thought so, it 
could not have been his intent to offer no resistance should 
an invasion occur. His army collapsed on contact with its 
enemy, despite Reza Shah’s twenty year effort to strengthen 
i t. 

No serious resistance was encountered and conscripts 


deserted in the thousands. In the south, one infantry 

brigade captured Abadan, while "the majority of Persian 


forces escaped in lorries" In the centra] sector new 
Kermanshah, the defenders "abandoned their positions 


hastily*. On the 28th, just as a continued attack was about 
to be launched, the Iranian commander surrendered. The total 
number of British casualties for the whole operation was 22 
killed and 42 wounded. *® 

There was no popular resistance, in spite of a year 
long program by Reza Shah to impress the people with the 
need to resist a possible invasion.** Faced with the 
collapse of the army, the complacency of the people, and the 
lack of government resolve, Reza Shah ordered a ceasefire on 
the 28th, three days after the invasion and before any major 
battle was fought or offered by the Iranians. 

Mohammed Reza Shah, Reza Shah’s son, provides the final 
evidence regarding the poor Military Worth of 1941 Iranian 
Army. '...except for a few isolated engagements, the 
resistance of the Iranian armed forces was completely 
ineffective."*^ The Iranian army was overwhelmed, not 
because of inferior numbers, but because of it chose not to 
resist. Even if totally overmatched, a cohesive, disciplined 
army will resist violently, and many times successfully. The 
Iranian army, in spite of its numerical improvements, was of 
lower Military Worth than its size would indicate. Using Van 
Creveld’s formula, this can only occur if the Fighting Power 
is low. 

Reza Shah’s army was of low Miltary Worth because of 
its low Fighting Power, and had low Fighting Power because 
of an imbalance in the relationships among the elements of 

Von Clausewitz’s "remarkable trinity". The army had a weak 
relationship with the Iranian people and rigid relationship 
with the government, in the form of the Reza Shah as head of 
state and despot. The people, government relationship was a 
reflection the people, army relationship, already described 
as weak. The Fighting Power of the army was low as a direct 
result of the poorly balanced people, army, government 

British forces withdrew on the iSth of October, 
although Soviet forces remained past the end of the war. 

Reza Shah did not resist British demands for his abdication, 
and in fact preferred it to "taking orders from some British 
Captain". The Majlis appointed his son, Reza Muhammed 
Pahlavi, the new Shah. Reza Shah went into exile, ultimately 
in South Africa. The new Shah very young, unprepared to 
rule, and dependent upon his advisors.^ 

Reza Shah had reasserted Iran’s intent to control its 
own destiny. Authoritarian and nationalistic, he expanded 
the army and elevated the army’s influence to the point that 
it was the single most important government body. He unified 
and expanded the army, used it extensively for enforcing 
social change, and elevated the wealth and social status of 
loyal military officers. However, he neglected the primary 
relationships between Iran’s people, its army, and its 
government. The result was an army of low Fighting Power, 
and questionable Military Worth. How the new Shah would 

handle the imbalances would determine the future of Iranian 
army’s Military Worth* and ultimately the future of Iran. 

A New Shah* An Old Pattern. 

Reza Mohammed Phalavi, the ShahanShah* suddenly and 
unexpectedly occupied the Peacock Throne at the age of 
twenty two. His military education in Iran and Switzerland 
was that of an imperial officer cadet, and has father had 
taken great care to instill the monarchy in royal prince. 

His father, in exile in South Africa, died three years 
after his abdication. Muhammed Reza Pahlavi had to depend on 
the advice of relatives, allies and senior military and 
government officials. Power became more defused and there 
was competion for greater shares of the Imperial power. 

The Majlis, fearing that the new Shah would use the 
Armed forces to enforce a despotsim similiar to his 
father’s, initially gained more authority over the Armed 
forces through its control of the military budget. A general 
roll back of Reza Shah’s reforms occurred in other areas, 
religious and tribal leaders reasserted control, more 
traditional dress and language reappeared, as well as 
fascist, communist, religious and nationalist political 
parties. However, it was the challenge of another would be 
despot that was to shape Shah Pahlavi’s attitude as ruler; 
the Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq.^ 

Mossadeq had formed a coalition of nationa1istic 
parties of every stripe, focusing on the control of Iran’s 
oil. He was initially widely popular and was appointed Prime 
Minster, at the demand of the Majlis, in 1951. As the oil 
crisis, which he had helped to precipitate, worsened, 
Mossadeq demanded more and more control. He eventually, 
consolidated his control by assuming the role of minister of 
war, and though challenged by the Shah, was supported in the 
streets by radical religious clergy. 

Mossadeq attempted to turn the army into his political 
instrument, as had Reza Shah. He purged the army of officers 
loyal to the Shah and promoted those loyal to him. The 
dependability of these officers, however, proved unreliable. 

The political crisis worsened as Mossadeq lost support 
and more directly challenged the Shah, eventually deposing 
him. In 1953, in a short four day period during which the 
Shah left the country, Mossadeq was overthrown in a coup by 
army officers he had purged. 

The challenge posed by Mossadeq was a formative one for 
the Shah. Where the Shah had reigned before, now he would 
rule.^ This was especially true in the army, which Mossadeq 
had tried to use against the Shah, but had ultimately proved 
the Shah’s basis of power. Clearly, the army was to be his 
mainstay. However, this viewpoint was short sighted, and the 
shism between the people, the army, and the government, 

evident during the rule of his father, although initially 

abatedm, would soon resume its growth. 

The Shah began by purging officers affiliated with the 

communist Tudeh (Masses) party and outlawed the party 

itself, as had his father. He took steps to reduce the power 

of the Majlis by supervising the nomination of candidates 

and elections. He created several internal security 

organizations, the most notorious of which was SAVAK 

(Sazman-i Ittila’at va Amniyat-i Keshvari National 

, 7 

Intelligence and Security Organization) 

SAVAK was closely associated with the military and was 

run by high ranking military officers. These organizations 

were arranged in a bewildering system so that "everybody was 


watching somebody else". As an example, a super secret 

organization entitled the Special Intelligence Bureau 

operated out of the Shah’s palace with the sole aim of 

working independently of SAVAK, presumably to act as the 


Shah’s watchdog of SAVAK itself. A comprehensive study of 
these organizations is worthy of a thesis in itself. Suffice 
it to say, that they were an outgrowth of the Shah’s concern 
for internal security and lack of trust. 

Another feature of the Shah’s lack of trust was the 
control of his military organizations. The General Staff 
acted as a planning and coordinating agency, but not as a 
command body. Service Chiefs of Staff, major subordinate 

commanders and security organizations were encouraged to 
report directly to the Shah. 

The result? in terms of the Clausewitzean trinity? were 
potentially catastrophic. A vicious cycle of brutal 
repression and resistance further separated the government? 
in the person of the Shah? from the people? and the people 
from the army as the tool of his oppression. The Shah put a 
considerable strain on the people? army? government 
relationship that eventually produced a major revolution. 
However? these trends are not a complete analysis and 
Fighting Power of the Iranian army and its Military Worth 
requires a more detailed analysis. 

1975 was a watershed year for the Iranian army. 

National wealth suddenly increased as result of a sustained 
oil revenue windfalls? and the military budget dramatically 
increased correspondingly. The rapid increase in the Quality 
and Quantity of equipment provides an excellent opportunity 
to evaluate the Iranian army in Van Creveld’s terms? and 
will provide greater insight into the army’s Fighting Power. 

From 1973 to 1975 Iranian Gross National Product more 
than doubled as a result of increased oil revenues. Defense 
expenditures increased more than fivefold and doubled as a 
percentage of the GNP in the same period. Most of the 
expenditures were on equipment and modernization? since 
manpower remained almost constant.' 4 '* The sudden influx of 

equipment was impossible to absorb without waste and 


In addition, the rapid modernization brought with it a 
growing dependence on foreign sources for war materiel, a 
critical weakness in a protracted war. Although production 
of small arms had begun and plans for production of other 
types of equipment were laid out, at the time of the 
revolution, Iran was still almost completely dependent on 
outside sources for major items and technical expertise. 

This was further complicated by a deliberate government 
decision to purchase equipment from different countries. In 
some cases, the tank of one country was matched with the 
main gun of another. The resulting mix of weapons, calibers, 
and repair items to support them was a logistical nightmare. 

The response, a computerized logistical system, 
exacerbated the problem by increasing the foreign 
dependence. In addition, the sophisticated electronics were 
even more likely to fail and less likely to be immediately 
or locally repairable. 

In addition, the critical shortage of trained personnel 
throughout the country was eroding army morale and cohesion, 
vital elements of Fighting Power. The exploding economy had 
created a widespread demand for all technical skills. As the 
growing demand forced the Civilian wage scales up, officers 
either left the service, or began to chafe under the 

relatively low military salaries. 

In an effort to meet the shortage* a new military class 

was rapidly expanded* Warrant Officers. Critically important 
to the modernizing army, they were promoted on the basis of 
their badly needed skills and therefore not necessarily 
loyal to the Shah. As the army came to depend more and more 
on these technicians, they began to garner an importance far 
beyond their rank in critical technical areas? maintenance, 
computerization, communcations* weaponry and intelligence. 

This critical group was* not promoted on the basis of 
loyalty. The Shah* who reviewed all promotions to Major, did 
gave them no special attention, in spite of their critical 
importance to the army.^ They were a distinctly new feature 
in the Iranian army and a further potential fragmentation? 
officers in control of critcal nodes with no specific 
loyalty to the Shah.^* 

The loyalty and cohesion of the bulk of the enliste 
force was eroding also. Largely short term conscripts, 
enlisted soldiers had scant affection for the regime to 
begin with. -1 ""’ Poorly treated and poorly paid, even before 
the sudden increase civilian wages, their morale, cohesion 
and loyalty suffered even more than the officer Corps. 

As an ironic twist, efforts to make them more reliable 
in an internal security role had the opposite effect. 
Conscripts were routinely stationed in areas outside their 
native region. This was thought to assure their loyalty in 
the event of a local insurrection. However, the young 


soldier* lonely and separated from his family, friends, and 
community, turned to the local mosque as the only area he 
recognized and felt comfortable in." 1 "^ However, as the clergy 
increasingly opposed the Shah, the young conscripted soldier 
heard an ever louder and more insistent beat of critcism and 
condemnation of the Shah’s regime. When the Revolution came, 
many enlisted joined in the revolt, some turning on their 


officers and killing them.*"' 

Between 1975 and the revolution, these problems grew 
more pronounced. In spite of enormous improvement in the 
Quality and Quantity of equipment, it could not resist the 
revolution when it came. When the Shah’s army is evaluated, 
it becomes clear that its Military Worth was lower than it 
appeared. In Van Creveld’s formulation, this can only occur 
when the Fighting Power is very low. 

The people, army, government linkage was so weak and so 
imbalanced that violent, total revolution occurred. To the 
extent that we can gain insight into the Fighting Power of 
an army by analyzing the relationship between the people, 
the army, and the government, the Fighting Power was also 
very low. In the final analysis, the army did not only not 
overcome the revolution, but participated in it. The final 
military declaration of "non-interference" marked the end of 


the Pahlavi reign and begining of the Islamic Republic.^ 
Under different circumstances, could the Imperial 
Iranian Ground Forces have exhibited greater Military Worth? 

Since I intend to compare the Military Worth of the Shah’s 
army to the army of the Islamic Republic, the question is an 
important one. If Iraq had invaded before the revolution, 
would the Iranian army still have been so weak? 

The question is unanswerable in any meaningful way. The 
real external threats did not have this effect. If one had 
materialized, the shism between the people, the army, and 
the government would be as serious and the weaknesses in 
military cohesion, morale,* and loyalty would have also 
remained. It would be necessary to assume away the 
revolution and its causes before we again have an Iranian 
army of respectable Fighting Power and Military Worth. This 
assumption is such a departure from reality that analysis 
becomes speculative guesswork without utility. 

Additionally, such a proposal begs the question. In the 
final analysis the Military Worth of the army was so low 
that it could not resist the revolution. It was of low 
Military Worth in spite of recent lavish augmentations in 
Quality and Quantity of equipment and because of poor 
Fighting Power. It was of poor Fighting Power as a result of 
basic weaknesses in the people, army, government 
relationship and erosion in military cohesion, loyalty and 

The effect of the revolution on the Military Worth of 
the Iranian army is revealed in the following chapter on its 
performance in the Iran-Iraq war. 



1 . 

David McKay, 

Sir William Slim, Defeat Into Victory , (New York 
Inc., 1961), p. 3. 

2. Richard F. Nyrop, ed., Iran? A Country Study, p. 


3. Ibid., p. 54. 

4. Ibid. 

5. Winston Spencer Churchill, The Second World War , 
Vol III, The Grand Alliance , (Eoston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 
1950), pp. 482-483. 

6. George Lenczowski, ed. , Iran under the Pahlavi’s 
(Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press., 1978), p. 

7. Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War , p. 


8. Richard F. Nyrop, ed., Iran: A Study, p. 391 

9. Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War , p. 



Ibid., p. 483. 

1 1 . 

George Lenczowski, 

Iran Under 

the Pahlavi’s, p 





Mohammed Reza Shah 
York: Mcgraw hill. 

Pah 1avi, , 

, 1962), p. 

Mission for My 


Richard F. Nyrop., 

ed., Iran: 

A Country Study, 


14. Ibid., p. 60. 

15. Ibid. 

16. Ibid., p. 62. 

17. Ervand Abrahamian, Iran: Between Two Revolutions 
(Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1982), pp 


The Economist, 11 November, 1978., 

p. 13 


19. Richard F. Myropi ed. , Iran: A Country Study, p 

20. Ibid., p. 401. 

21. Anthony H. Cor desman," The Gulf and the Search 
for Strategic Stability , p. 726. 


22. Richard F. Nyrop, ed., Iran: A Country Study, p 

23. Ibid., p. 401. 

24. Nikki R. Keddie, Roots of Revolution: An 
Interpretive History of Modern Iran , (New Haven, Connecticut: 
Yale University Press), p. 6. 


John M. 

Smith, "Where 


the Shah’s 


? " 


Nikki R. 

Keddie, Roots 






John. M. 

Smith, "Where 


the Shah’s 


? " 



Ibid. , 

P. 90 

Chapter Three 

The Post-revolutionary Army in the Iran-Iraq War 

"If you want to overcome your enemy you must match your 
effort against his power of resistance, which can be 
expressed as the product of two inseparable factors, viz, 
the total means at his disposal, and the strength of his 
will. The extent of the means at his disposal is a matter, 
though not exclusively, of figures, and should be 
measurable. But the strength of his will is much less easy 
to determine and can only be gauged approximately by the 
strength of the motive animating it." 

Carl Von Clausewit 


Chapter three is subdivided into three subsections; a 

strategic overview of the conflict, events, and factors 

leading upto the war, an operational level analysis of 

selected Iranian military actions, and an overview and 

analysis of the Iranian army’s performance. 

It is the intent of Chapter three to show that the 

performance of the Iranian army in the Iran-Iraq war 

indicates that it is an army of considerable Military Worth 

inspite of low levels of the Quality and Quantity of 

equipment but because of considerable Fighting Power. If 

this is so, it strongly implies that the Revolution was the 

proximate cause for the change in Fighting Power. It then 

becomes the purpose of Chapter four to analyze the 

Revolution and to determine the effect on the army. 

The Iraqi decision to go to war was based on the 

intent to take advantage of the apparently unsteady 

government in Iran, gain control of the Shatt al Arab water 

way (controlled by Iran, and Iraq’s strategic link to the 

Persian Gulf), assert its dominance in the region, and 

perhaps annex the ethnically Arab; oil rich Khuzestan 

province. She also expected that the operation would 

destabilize the reactionary Islamic republic and put an 

early end to the threat of Islamic fundamenta1ist revolution 

throughout the Moslem world. To help carry out its initial 

military operations, Iraq elicited considerable direct and 

monetary support from the Persian Gulf and other Arab 
nations because, she pointed out with regularity, she fought 
an enemy that threatened them all. Although no direct 
evidence exists that Iraq was encouraged in its adventurism 
or sought advice in this regard, it is clear that they 
condoned the action.- 

Iraq had another clear intent which can only be termed 
an overdevelopment of its sense of its rightful destiny as 
leader of the Arab world. After the Camp David accords, 
Egypti the previous leader of the Arab states, was rejected 
without a clear successor. Here was an opportunity for 
Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq, that seemed to him to be 
too good to misss a weak, belligerent, and thoroughly 
disliked non-Arab nation? a long term and arguably 
justifiable grudge? the promise of a permanent regional 
power realignment in Iraq’s advantage? and the glittering 
possibility of leadership of the Arab nations on the world 

Additionally, the area of planned invasion looked 
especially vulnerable. Khuzestan, also known as Arabistan, 
was at least -40% Arab, and its oil workers had recently 
reacted violently in opposition to the Islamic government’s 
attempts to influence operations in the oil fields and 
refineries.^ Hussein made much of the racial factor in 
public statements and may have over estimated its impact on 


ideological grounds. That Khuzestan was also almost 

exclusively Shi’ite was discounted, since it was felt the 
ethnic loyalty would prove dominant. There was some reason 
to believe this. The corresponding border area of Iraq was 
also Shi’ite as was the Iraqi enlisted force. If racial 
loyalty was the dominant factor in Iraq, then, the ideology 
suggested it would be dominant in Khuzestan. 

In the final analysis, Hussein’s reach exceeded his 

grasp. Like many other dictators whose sense of destiny 


drove them to military adventurism, he could not turn down a 
seeming golden opportunity. 

Iran was regionally isolated even before the 
revolution. Its clumsy and ineffective use of power against 
the Dhofar rebels in Oman and support of the Kurdish rebel 
against Iraq, its heavy handed negotiation with Iraq over 
the Shatt el Arab in 1975, and its paternalistic attitude 
toward the Gulf virtually guaranteed sufficient animosity in 
the region. 

Since the Islamic revolution things had gotten 
decidedly worse. Iran held, with malicious intent, American 
Embassy and military personnel for ransom; the Iranian 
Revolutionary Party (IRP) was erratically and brutally 
rooting out opposition while competitors for for IRP 
leadership fought amongst themselves. The IRP openly incited 
Islamic peoples everywhere, especially Iraqis, to revolt 
against their corrupt leaders.^ To make matters worse, its 
announced intention to use oil to gain concessions and as a 


tool of influnce in its foreign policy arsenal) assured 
regional and global enmity. However, it remained in OPEC, 
and joined with Syria, South Yemen, and Libya in the 
"Steadfastness front", a group of like minded radical 

Post-revolutionary Iranian intent toward Iraq is more 
difficult to fathom. Although a low intensity border war had 
been in progress through the previous year, there was no 
troop redeployment other that for internal security. 

Khomeini’s strategic perspective appears to have an Ad 
Horninem quality. He made a number of theatening statements 
directed at the person of Saddam Hussein, calling him at one 
point the "dwarf pharoah". 6 He also directed personal 
attacks at other leaders whom he thought opposed him, both 
externally and internally, including the Saudi leaders after 
1982.^ Khomeini’s Ad Horninem foreign policy approach was 
later illustrated during the attempt to negotiate a truce 
between Iran and IraqJ he insisted that Hussein be put on 
trial and beheaded before an armistice be concluded. The key 
to the influence of Iran may be through a personal 
relationship with the Ayatollah. 

Geography of the Battle area. 

The Iraq-Iran border stretches roughly 1500 Kilometers 
from the Persian Gulf in the South to the common Turkish 
border. It transits swamplands, plains, desert and mountain 

wasteland. In the southern border region that has seen the 
greatest fighting* the temperature ranges from just below 
freezing in January in the mid-nineties in July. Winter 
rainfalls are quite severe, with an annual rainfall of about 
20 inches. Since the Tigris and Euphrates, which drain the 
central Iraqi basin, and the Karun river, out of the Iranian 
Zagros mountains, drains into the Shatt al Arab, the river 
routinely floods, covering a broad expanse of low lying 
swamplands. Seasonal rains can vary as much as 40’/., however, 
and during the fall of 1990 rains were unusually heavy. The 
Iranian oil fields are fifty to 200 miles east of the border 
in the south of Khuzestan province; the Iraqi fields are 100 
to 200 miles west of the border in the North at Kirkuk. 

In the Northern and central sectors, the Zagros runs 
along the Iranian side of the border creating a formidable 
obstacle. The Iraqi terrain in the central sector is much 
flatter all the way to Baghdad, although it is more 
mountainous in Kurdistan as closer to Turkey. These areas 
are relatively arid, although there are woodlands in the 
higher altitude valleys and large cultivated and irrigated 


areas from Kirkuk to the Syrian border in the west. 

The Shatt al Arab, or the Shore of the Arabs, plays a 
central role in the events leading up to the war. The Shatt 
is a meandering channel, combining the Tigris, Euphrates and 
Karan rivers, and makes up the lower border between Iran and 


Iraq. It is from on quarter to three quarters of a mile wide 
and silts up rapidly if it is not kept clear. 

Possession and control of the Shatt has remained a bone 
of contention since it was used as a demarcation, however, 
the current debate began in 1914. The 1914 treaty, clarified 
in 1937, gave the bulk of the Shatt to Iraq, then under 
British control. This gave the Iraqis the potential of 
severely restricting Iranian passage from its major oil 
refinery in Abadan to the Persian Gulf. Iran continued to 
use the Shatt without change, but also planned and built 
several pipelines to points lower on the Gulf. In 1969, Iraq 
told Iran it might close the Shatt to Iranian shipping. In 
1971, diplomatic relations were severed and a period of 
rising tension ensued. 

With the exception of a temporary rapproachment during 

the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, forces and actions on the border 

continued to build, culminationg in several border clashes 

in 1974 and overt support of the Kurdish rebels in Iraq by 

Iran. In 1975, a treaty was worked out under Algerian 

auspices dividing the Shatt at the midpoint of the deepest 

channel,(the thalweg line), and ending Iranian support for 

the Kurds. The Iraqi negotiator was Saddam Hussein, later 
to become the first Iraqi civilian head of state, and 
initiator of the Iran-Iraq war. 

Following the accord in 1975, both Iraq and Iran 
continued to improve their military forces! Iraq largely 

because its poor performance in the 1973 Arab-Israeli u»ar» 
and Iran as part of its emerging agenda of security for the 
Gulf region. A more detailed analysis of the force 
comparison between the two powers before the war follows. 

Before the war commenced, Iraq appeared on the verge of 
ascendancy in the Persian Gulf region. It had a well 
equipped army and Air Force, powerful allies, and a 
centralised government in firm control. 

The Iraqi army was considered to have a good 
capability, having undergone intense scrutiny, 
reorganization, and training following its lackluster 
performance in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. By 1980 the army 
had more than doubled in size. Special emphasis was given to 
armored and armored infantry forces, air defense, anti-tank, 
Air Forces and transportat ion units. Saddam Hussein, a 
civilian who had come to power in 1979 through a protracted 
internal struggle with powerful revolutionary military 
leaders, had consolidated his control over the military 

The secular Ba’ath party had made use of the increased 
profit available through oil revenues and the standard of 
living had improved. Additionally, the Soviet Union was a 
military ally of long standing, having supplied the Iraqi 
army since the assassination of the Hashemite King in 1958. 
It had fully supported Iraq’s involvement in the 1967 and 
1973 wars with Israel and was closely allied politically 


with the Ba’ath party and its general goals: pan-arabism, 
socialism, anti-colonial ism, and the destruction of 
Israel. 10 

Accurate force comparisons are always difficult. This 
was particularly true in Iran in 1980 which was in a state 
of chaos and unreceptive to inquiries of any kind. The 
figures used here come from the Institute for International 
and Strategic Studies in London and are the most reliable, 
although difficult of verify outside of classified sources. 
As Clausewitz states in the introductory quotation, means 
are largely a matter of figures and easily measured: the 
strength of Iran’s will, (in Van Creveld’s terms, "Fighting 
Power") is the basic thesis question. 

Table 3.1 shows selected elements for comparison in 
1980, 1981, and 1982.** These figures cover the period I 

will focus on in my analysis of the war. 

High Performance Aircraf 
Naval Seagoing Warships 

What can be gathered from the Table 3.1 is that rough 
parity existed in quantity of equipment at the beginning of 
the war , although Iran quantity of equipment was eroded, 
especially in Aircraft. In two critical areas, tanks and 
armored fighting vehicles, Iraq kept a considerable edge. 

In Naval Seagoing Warships (Frigates and Destroyers), Iran’s 
edge allowed an immediate and permanent blockade of Iraqi 
oil sea line of communication. 

The Quality comparison is more difficult. Since, in 
general, Iraq spent less on military hardware and got more, 
the quality of the equipment purchased may have been lower? 
however, the defense expenditures were offset by the 
source,(the Soviet Union) and loans received from other 
nations (notably Saudi Arabia during the War). The Iraqis, 
after the war commenced, complained about the quality of the 
Soviet aircraft ordnance? however, evidence suggests that 
the quality of the Iraqi pilots was more to blame. 

Additiona1ly, the quality of the Iranian equipment was 
drastically reduced by the poor logistical program 
previously noted and the simple neglect after the 
Revolution. As an example, almost 60’/. of the army had 
deserted since the revolution and only 507.- 80’/. of Iran’s 
aircraft were consider inoperable at the start of the war 
for maintenance. As Iran still held the American embassy 
personnel, it was unlikely that it would receive large scale 

logistical support from the west for its higher quality 
western equipment. 

It is assumed that no great difference existed between 
Iraq and Iran in the quality of the equipment. The equipment 
Iran purchased may have been of slightly higher quality, 
being of western manufacture and more expensive, but it was 
very poorly maintained and was without a logistical 
sustaining "base. (As an aside, an indication of Iran’s 
desperation to solve the logistical problem, it purchased 
repair parts from its sworn enemy; Israel. This source was 
limited, however, and was ended when the war front 

What is not stated in Table 3.1 is major inequities in 
two strategic areas of a long conflict; total population, 
GNP, and reserve manpower. 

Table 3.2 





Total population 

39. 3 




GNP <$ Bi1 ) 




Reserve Manpower 




(000 7 s) 





Total population 


13. 1 1 



GNP <$ Bi1 ) 




Reserve Manpower 




< 000’s) 

What is immediately noted is that Iran’s population is 
over three times Iraqs; insignificant is a short war but 
decisive in a long one. Not unexpectedly, Iran’s reserve 
manpower grows over time, while Iraq’s shrinks. Also, Iran’s 
GNP and oil output grew during the War. Following a 
post-revolutionary reduction, the Iran’s oil exports rose to 
the OPEC*ceiling by 1930. Contrastingly, Iraq's oil 
production has yet to achieve pre-war levels. Iraq has also 
received almost $90 Billion in loan and loans guarantees 
during the war. 

Two important facts are evident from analyzing the 
Quality and Quantity of equipment and the start of the war. 
First, there was rough parity between the land forces. 
Second, Iraq was potentially vulnerable in a protracted 
conflict because of its relatively small population, and 
dependence on oil revenue. The significance of this second 
factor is small initially, but grows exponentially as the 
war continues. 

Relevant Demography. 

Iran is ethnically and racially diverse. Primarily 
Persian (63*/.), Iran also includes Turk (18*/.), Arab (13*1), 
Kurd (3*/.), and Baluchi and other minorities. The Arab 
minority is concentrated in Khuzestan, as previously noted. 


Khuzstan mas a semi-autonomous Arab state until the reign of 
Reza Shah, when it was forcibly absorbed. 

Conversely, Iraq is ethnically Arab with the exception 
of Turk and Kurd minorities. However, its population is 
split between the Sunni in the north and west and the 
shi’ite in the east along the Iran-Iraq border. Sunni’s make 
up the majority of officers in the Iraqi army, while 
Shi’ites make up the bulk of the enlisted force. 

In short, the ethnically Arab, religiously Shi’ite 
population of Southeastern Iraq abuts on the demographically 
similiar Iranian population in Khuzestan. It is worth noting 
that the appeals to Arab brotherhood by Iraq and Shi’ite 
loyalties by Iran were both singularly unsuccessful. 13 

Two periods in the war are analysed in greater detail; 
first because the outcome of each was unexpected, and second 
because the unexpected outcome may help determine Iranian 
Fighting Power. The first is the Iranian reaction to the 
Iraqi invasion and the second is the Iranian 
counteroffensive campaign. 

Iraq crossed the border with at least six divisions at 
two widely separated points. The Northern area was attacked 
with one division along a broad front near Qasr-e-Shirin 
along the traditional Baghdad - Teheran invasion route. It 
was apparently a defensive move to seize defendable terrain 
that would block access to the flatter, rolling terrain 
between the Iranian border and Baghdad. It was successful 

as far south as Mehran, roughly 30 miles* but only 3 to 5 
miles deep. Importantly, it was an area promised to Iraq by 
the Shah as part of the 1975 Algiers treaty, but not 
surrendeed. No further advance was made in the area. 

The remaining five armored and motorised divisions made 
the major attack in the south. The main element was a two 
division force which crossed the Shatt-al-Arab to seize 
Khorraftishar and Abadan. Three divisons crossed the border 
further north and began to drive along two axes toward Ahvaz 
(the capital of Khuzestan province) and Dezful. The primary 
objective was apparently to isolate the two oil refining 
ports in the delta of the Eupharates (Khoramshahr and 
Abadan) and cut the critical oil pipeline between them and 
Ahvaz, thereby denying Teheran oil for both internal 
consumption and export. The operation closely resembled the 
the successful British Invasion in 1941 in several pect; 
area, force size, and initial objectives. 

Initial Iraqi reports were ecstatic. Within the first 
day, Hussein was on the verge of announcing the annexation 
of all of Khuzestan and stated, in fact, that the war had 
"asserted its own claims”.^ However, progress was slower 
than expected. Iraqi forces stopped short of the Karun river 
in the South, and failed to reach either Dezful and Ahvaz, 
although Iraq claimed to surround them "on three sides". In 
part, this was a result of a political reluctance to incur 


large casualties. Unquestionably, however, the virulence of 
the Iranian resistance was completely unexpected. 

By the end of September, Iraq was forced on the 
defensive? tactically, operationally, and strategically. 
Armor was dug in, infantry built up defensive positions, and 
attacks consisted of heavy artillery bombardment. A number 
of analysts have commented on the "World War I" flavor of 
this stage of the war, complete with entrenchments, 
artillery duels and, eventually, chemical weapons. 

Operationally, activities seemed to cease. Hussein, who felt 
his support would erode if casualties were high, and 
surprized by the Iranian resistance, abandoned any 
operational initiative. Strategically too, Iraq proclaimed 
the defensive. Hussein made his first offer of a ceasefire 
at the end of September and repeated his offer several times 
during the next six months. Iraq never regained the 

The Iraqi misassessment was made by everyone else who 
had evaluated the comparative strength. What Iraq, and 
others, had missed was the surprising Iranian Fighting 
Power. The Quality and Quantity of equipment was more easily 
measured, and Iraq was given an edge, or at least parity. 
However, Fighting Power, the more nebulous, and more 
difficult to measure element of Military Worth, mulitplied 
the Iran’s capability out of proportion to the anticipated 






It appears that Iran was surprised by the invasion. Of 
the seven active divisions* none were on the Iraqi border, 
although an armored divison was in garrison near Ahvaz. 
However, roughly 240 military incidents had taken place 
between Iran and Iraq, many involving the Pasdran, or the 
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Pasdran 
numbered about 30,000 at this time and was a light infantry 
fordfe. It was primarily in Teheran and was the overt 
coercive element of the IRP. The integration of the Pasdran 
and the Regular Iranian army was eventually affected out of 
military necessity and is separately addressed. 

Achieving strategic and tactical surprize, the Iraqi 
northern objectives were seized easily and no opposition was 
initially encountered in the countryside in the south. 
However, the Iranian strategic reaction was swift and 
apparently well planned. Air strikes began almost 
immediately on Iraqi strategic targets (oil fields, air 
bases, etc.), the Iranian Navy closed the Shatt to Iraq and 
attacked Iraqi ports, active Army forces where deployed, and 
reserves mobilized, although the Army’s reacted more slowly. 

Such a rapid, coordinated response can not be made Ad 
Hoc . The Shah’s army had done extensive planning for just 
such an event; it is likely that the contingency plans 
previously developed were dusted off and used. 

What is most significant, however, was the speed and 
efficiency in the execution of these plans. What can be 

concluded is that the Iranian armed forces acted with energy 
and dispatch to a bolt-out-of—the-blue attack. It was not 
the reaction an armed force fractured by indiscipline or 
indecision? it was the reaction of an army with a clear goal 
and single intent. From the first moment, then, the Islamic 
army was vastly different than the Reza Shah’s army, or the 
army that rebelled against its officers during the 

Tactically, the resistance was also noted for it vigor. 
Khoramshar, the Iranian city closest to the border, was 
defended succesfully for over a month, initially by police 
and local militia, later by regular army and Pasdran forces. 
The defense was so stubborn that it was renamed Kuninshah - 
City of Blood. 18 

Iraq’s lack, of preparation for urban warfare did not 

stop it form launching heavy persistent attacks. Nor does it 

explain the tenacity of the city’s defenders, long after the 

city had been isolatd, or the equally stubborn defense of 

neighbouring Abadan, which was not claimed by Iraq until 10 


November and was contested continually. However, it can be 
explained as a manifestation of an energized people, army, 
government linkage. 

The remainder of the front was largely stabilized 
while fighting for the cities of Abadan and Khoramshar went 
on into October and November. By January 1981 Iranian 
redeployments and preparation for the initial 

counteroffensives were in progress. The Pasdran, still 
separate from the army, was conducting nighttime cross 
border sabotage raids. The first major counter-attack at 
Susangerd was to be a watershed for the army, and, also for 
Iranian politics. 

The false start; the Battle of Susangerd. 

The Iranian counteroffensive at Susangerd was 
ultimately unsuccessful, although it had a promising 
beginning. It resulted in a shake up of army command and 
control, and the integration of the Pasdran. It was also the 
cause for the eventual downfall of Eani Sadr. 

For a number of months, Bani Sadr, then the Prime 
Minister, had planned for a large scale offensive to drive 
the Iraqis out. It was his intent to develop the army as his 
power base, a pattern noted earlier in Iranian History, and 
to cement his position as a leader with the people and 
Khomeini. He was also anxious to fortify himself against the 
attacks of his principal rivals in the radical clergy, whose 
military power base was in the Pasdran. 

The battle plan was ambitious, concentrating armor in a 
penetration to break the front and carry the war into Iraq. 
Significantly, the attack was made without the Pasdran, a 
largely infantry force. Bani Sadr did not want to share his 
victory with the the radical clergy who opposed him. 

The attack made initial gains* but the penetration 

could not be sustained or defended* and a large number of 


tanks were lost or abandoned. 

A number of critical decsions were made as as a result 
of the defeat of the battle of Susangerd. First was 
Khomeini’s proclamations to "leave the war to the soldiers 
and Generals" and his attacks upon the clergy for 
interference in the war. This was apparently directed at all 
elements of the government, including Eani Sadr and the 
radical clergy, although the clergy still championed the 
Pasdran.' 4 ' The ultimate result was the establishment of the 
Strategic Defense Council, which included Eani Sadr, IRP 
representatives, the Army and Pasdran Commanders. 

Second, was Khomeini’s commitment to continue the war 
until Hussein was overthrown. This was clear at the Islamic 
peace conference in March, where he insisted that Iraq 
withdraw before negotiations began, and effectively scuttled 
the conference by insisting that Hussein’s Koranically 
correct punishment was beheading. 

The result was the most significant change in the 
Iranian army thus far; the coordination and eventual 
integration of the Pasdran and the regular army. When the 
counteroffensive campaign kicked off in May, the Pasdran was 
a vital part of the attack and battlefield command and 
control, although still at this time as separate units.~~ 

Three lessons can be drawn from the Iranian counter 
offensive campaign. First, it was a stunning success. 
Second, it was coordinated between the Regulars and Pasdran, 
as well as other Naval and Air forces. Third, it was planned 
from an operational perspective. It may, in fact, be one of 
the more adroit examples of operational art in the offense 
since the World Wasr II. Finally, the campaign established 
the Iranian army as an instrument of considerable Military 
Worth inspite of considerable difficulties in Quality and 
Quantity of equipment. 

The intent of the campaign was to force the Iraqi army 
out of Iran by coordinated multi-divisional attacks from 
unexpected fronts. The campaign had three major battles: the 
battle for Abadan in September 1981, operation Undeniable 
Victory in March 1982, and operation Holy City in May 1982. 
When viewed as a campaign, they resemble a boxer’s 
left-right-left combination. 

The battle for Abadan began with a series of 
diversionary attacks far north of the city which resulted in 
an Iraqi redeployment away from Abadan. The two division 
main attack began with a successful night infiltration by 
light infantry to identify weak spots. It was followed up by 
infantry engagement of strong points to fix them in position 
and combined arms (infantry, armor, artillery, air) attacks 
at identified weak points. As a result, Abadan was recoverd, 
Iraq was forced to withdraw to more defensible terrain 


beyond the Karun River, and Iranian LOCs were restored in 


Shortly after the battle, the top Regular and Pasdran 
commanders were killed in a plane crash. Although the loss 
of the top regular and Pasdran commanders must have set back 
the army to an extent, it did not lose its confidence or its 
initiative; in other words, its fighting spirit. That they 
were all killed together dramatically indicates how much 
coordination between the two forces had improved in a very 
short time. References in the thesis to the Iranian army 
after this battle include both the old Regular army and the 
Pasdran, unless otherwise specified. 

Operation Undeniable Victory, which took place in the 
north in the vicinity of Dezful, began in the third week of 
March with a force of roughly four divisions; 100,000 
regulars and 30,000 Pasdran light infantry. Iraq had 
launched a number of spoiling attacks which resulted in a 
high number of casualties and a decision to dig in even 
deeper. The Iranian attack began with a night insertion of 
commando forces behind Iraqi lines, followed by a night 
attack: on two separate axis by combined Armor and Infantry 
units. The Iraqis, surprised by both the location and size 
of the attack, later claimed overwhelming odds and "human 
wave" infantry assaults by frenzied religious f ana1 1 cs. 

This is almost certainly false. 

While infantry was 

undoubtedly used couragously and aggresively, it was also 
used with great skill and effectiveness. 

In order to appreciate the skill and effectiveness of 
the Iranian fighting force it is necessary to explain it in 
greater detail. Night attacks, which are always the most 
difficult and require the most detailed planning, staff 
work, rehearsal, training and leadership, were routine 
throughout this campaign. Units, which were frequently out 
of contact, acted with intiative and elan. For example, 
small detachments of infantry were trained to attack: 
specific Iraqi positions, suppress the strong point to mask 
the armored penetration, and assure a breakthrough. 

Not only is the effectiveness, aggressiveness and skill 

of the army demonstrated by its victory in these difficult 

and complex night operations, but also in the high ratios of 

enemy to friendly dead. During this campaign, the Iranian 

soldiers killed their opponents at a ratio of about two to 

one, without Air supremacy, against a prepared and well 

equipped enemy in strong echeloned defensive positions, at 

night. It was a couragous, effective, and lethal 

performance that any army would be proud of. It was 
certainly not a series of suicidal assaults by crazed 
fanatics seeking martyrdom.*" 

The battle destroyed an Iraqi armored division, 
recovered 900 square miles of territory, and forced the 
front back to the Iraqi border, but was not wholly 

successful. The ultimate goal of the two arms of the double 
envlopment was deep inside Iraq and, while Iraqi casualties 
and MIAs totaled 40,000, Iranian casualties and MIAs were 
close to 10,000. 

In these battles, the Iranian forces seldom achieved 
the three to one force ratio thought necessary for 


successful attack, but were successful anyway.' 1 Given the 
growing disadvantages in the Quality and Quantity of 
equipment, the multiplicative aspect of Fighting Power is 
indicated as the source of the Iranian land forces powerful 
capabilty and Military Worth (See Table 3.1 and 3.2). 

Operation Holy City began in May, 1982, close on the 
heels of the March battle. Three divisions used in the 
previous battle were redeployed from Dezful to the southern 
front near Khoramshahr. Three separate division size 
assaults toward separate targets pushed across the Karun 
river to recapture Khoramshahr and force the front back to 
the Iraqi border. As in previous attacks, it was preceded by 
night infantry attacks followed by rapidly concentrated 
armored attacks. This time, however, helicopters were the 
primary air support weapons. 

By 24 May, 1982, the Iraqi defense was crumbling all 

along the front, Iranian forces had virtually cleared 

Khuzestan, and advanced to within 15 miles of the Iraqi city 

of Basra.^ Khoramshahr, which Hussein had vowed never to 

surrender, fell, and Iraq had lost almost 20,000 killed and 
almost as many prisoners to Iran. 

It was an indication of the desperation of the Iraqi 
forces, that newly formed "triple digit" reserve units had 
been called to the front, as well as foreign workers. 
Volunteers for other nations, notably Jordan and Egypt had 
already been used in the fighting. 

Following the first two years of the war, major 
activities slowed considerably. Iraq could not break the 
Iranian hold on the Persian Gulf sea lines of communication, 
although it carried out an increasingly ambitious, albeit 
largely ineffective air war against the Iranian oil ports at 
Kharq Island. Iranian oil exports continued to rise and hit 

the OPEC imposed ceiling in 1983, in spite of Iraq’s 


imported technology and ccntinous attacks." More recently, 

oil exports were more effected by fluctuations in the oil 


market demands and supply than Iraqi war action. 

Iran continued offensives on land with decreasing 
effectiveness. Iraqi resistance stiffened considerably when 
the War moved into Iraq. Additionally, reduction in the 
duality and Quantity of equipment had finally begun to 
tell.^* For example, Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFV) had 
dropped from roughly 1100 in 1980 to 700 in 1982. Aircraft 
had dropped from 725 to 67 in the same period. 

The Khomeini government, setting political objectives, 
insisted that the war continue without pause, although the 

military leadership* estimating its low probabi1ities of 
success* strongly counselled a pause to rebuild. 
Additionally* there was no shortage of volunteers from the 
people for the war effort. The result was inadequately 
supported attacks and higher casualties. During this period* 
Fall* 1982 to Spring, 1984, the Pasdran was heedlessly 
expanded to almost 100,000 and was not always adequately 

3 ■-> 

trained, equipped or lead. *" The massed infantry attacks 
never failed for lack of courage, but did reduce the ranks 
of the Pasdran through attrition. 

After si:: years of struggle, the war continues without 
sign of a compromise. Recent events have suggested that the 
1985 Iranian pause was a deliberate buildup.^ Iran’s recent 
two front offensive was apparently successful, although it 
is still too early to evaluate the truth of the matter. In 
any event, it is clear evidence that the war goes on and 
Iran continues to press into Iraq. 

Iraq will not surrender, Iran is unwilling to stop, and 
neither side has the strength to force a sudden decision 
thus far in war. In short, Iraq can not win and can not 
quit; Iran can not be defeated and will not stop. Barring 
unforeseen circumstances, (such as revolution or large scale 
intervention), the war will end in either a mutual 
exhaustion, a continous state of war, (such as between 

Israel an Syria), or in the gradual destruction of Iraq. 

Overview and analysis. 

The performance of the Iranian armed forces, 
particularly the combination of the Army and the Pasdran, 
clearly demonstrates an abundance of Fighting Power. During 
the first two years of war, the army was resilient in the 
defense and powerful in the offense. Campaign planning was 
skillful and violent. High levels of deceptive planning were 
evident in the three campaigns examined as well as 
operational and tactical agility in the movement and 
concentration of forces at all levels. Depth was evident in 
the air deep attacks and effective use of deep insertion of 
commando forces. The battles where synchronized at a 
tactical level, carefully timing the use of infantry and 
armor successfully at night. The counteroffensive campaign, 
particularly the March and May, 1982 offensives, were 
genuine operational art; a combination of offensives punches 
in a single campaign with the same forces that drove the 
Iraqi’s, reeling, into their own territory. 

American doctrine is very similiar in that it rests 
also rest upon agility, initiative, synchronization, and 
depth, as well as on violent execution. However, American 
doctrine does not suggest a willingness to accept the high 
casualties implicit in the Iranian tactical doctrine, with 
the possible exception of US elite forces. However, the 
Iranian success suggests an unexpectedly offensive role for 
light infantry forces. Given sufficient Fighting Power, and 

adequate, coordinated Air and Artillery support, there is no 
reason that casualties need be so high, and every reason to 
believe that such forces mould be successful against the 
most determined defense. 

The Iranians, by aggressive use of light infantry as an 
assault force, supported by artillery and followed by armor, 
are repeatedly successful against a Soviet style echeloned 
defense in depth, although they are thus far unable to 
exploit these offensives to operational depth. Victories are 
possible using offensive, aggresive operations, if the 
commander is willing to accept the risk of high casualties. 
Within the limitations of the terrain, and Iraqi application 
of Soviet Doctrine, this may be an important lesson. As a 
minimum, it deserves greater study. 

The continued offensives by Iran testify to its 
continued abundance of Fighting Power, although its loses in 
the Quality and Quantity of equipment reduced its Military 
Worth. However, it continued to prosecute the war 
successfully, as recent events testify. 

It is clear that something happened which radically and 
perhaps permanently changed the Fighting Power of the 
Iranian army. This change had a multipiicative effect on the 
army’s Military Worth which allowed it to resist a 
determined and well armed attack, halt it, overcome it, and 
take the offensive. This occurred when the Quality and 
Quantity of equipment was eroding. 

It is logical to suggest that the revolution was the 

proximate cause of this radical change. The people, the army 
and the government, which were at war with one another under 
the Shah, were brought much closer to unity under the 
Islamic Iranian republic. It is the purpose of the Chapter 
four to show how that occurred. 



1. Stephen R. Grummon? The Iran-Iraq War: Islam 
Embattled ? (Washington D.C.: Praeger Publishers? 1982)? p. 15. 

2. Anthony H. Cordesman? The Gulf and the Search for 
Strategic Stability ? p. 645? 648? 679. 

3. Ibid.? p. 650. 

4. Ibid.? p. 649. 

5. Stephen R. Grummon? The Iran-Iraq War ? p. 16. 

6. Anthony H. Cordesman? The Gulf and the Search for 
Strategic Stability ? p. 648. 

7. Ibid.? p. 645. 

8. Richard F. Nyrop and Harvey Henry Smith? eds.? 
Iraq: A Country Study ? DA pam 550-31? (Washington? D.C.: U.S. 
Government Printing Office? 1979), p. 155. 

9. Richard F. Nyrop? ed.? Iran: A Country Study ? p. 


10. Richard F. Nyrop and Harvey Henry Smith? eds.? 
Iraq: A Country Study ? pp. 251-252. 

11. Data in Table 3.1, 3.2? and 4.1 are taken from The 

Gulf and the Search for Strategic Stability by Anthony H. 
Cordesman? pp. 726? 743. Source of Statistics is The Miltary 

Ba1ance and Strategic Survey ? Internationa1 Institute of 
Strategic Studies? (Cambridge? England: Heffers Printers Ltd., 
various years). 

12. Anthony H. Cordesman? The Gulf and the Search for 
Strategic Stability ? pp. 728? 732. Also see Hickman, Ravaged 
and Reborn ? p. 1. 

13. Anthony H. Cordesman? The Gulf and the Search for 
Strategic Stability ? p. 649. 

14. Ibid.? p. 661? Also Stephen R. Grummon, The 
Iran-Iraq War ? p. 25. 

15. Anthony H. Cordesman? The Gulf and the Search for 
Strategic Stability ? p. 648. 

16. Ibid.? p. 663. 


Ibid., p. 670 

20. William F. Hickman, Ravaged and Reborn; The 
Iranian Army, 1982 , (Washington, D.C.s The Brookings 
Institution, 1982) p. 25. 

21. The Economist , February 21, 1981. This mas not a 

change for Khomeini, but the events underscored it. 

22. Anthony H. Cordesman, The Gulf and the Search for 
Strategic Stability , p. 670. 


Ibid., p. 673. 






Ibid. p. 674. 


Ibid, p, 673. 


Ibid. p. 677. 


Ibid. p. 549. 


Department of State Bulletin, Vol 85, 

Num' »r 

December, 1985 p. 68. and Barry Rubin, "Middle Edst: 
for Peace”, Foreign Affairs, February, 1985, p. 600. 


Ibid., p. 727. 


Ibid., P. 682. 

33. G.H. Jansen, "Dawn Eight Shakes the Gulf," 
East International, 21 February, 1986, pp. 3-5. 




Chapter Four 

The Effect of the Islamic Revolution 
on the Iranian Army 

“History provides the strongest proof of the importance 
of moral factors and their often incredible effect; this is 
the noblest and most solid nourishment that the mind of a 
general may draw from a study of the past... One might say 
that the physical seems little more that the wooden hilt, 
while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real 
weapon, the finely-honed blade.” 

Carl Von Clausewitc 

In the Chapter one I outlined the relationship between 
Fighting Power and the people) army, and government trinity. 
In Chapter two I demonstrated the weaknesses in that trinity 
under the Pahlavi Shahs? and that the military Worth of the 
army was probably much less than it appeared due to its weak 
Fighting Power. Chapter three demonstrated the surprising 
Fighting Power of the Iranian army in the Iran-Iraq War. In 
Chapter four, which follows, I will propose that the Islamic 
revolution was the cause of the significant increase in the 
army’s Fighting Power, and explore the implications of that 
change on the military use of landpower in the region. 

The revolution had both direct, indirect, deliberate 
and unintentional effects an the Iranian army. As noted in 
Chapter two, a revolution of the scope and totality of the 
Islamic revolution, has a significant effect on all aspects 
of a society. In the case of the Iranian army, it was tied 
closer to the collective intent of the people through the 
nature of the popular revolution and the actions and 
attitudes of the soldiers themselves. Through direct 
pressure by the revolutionary government, it was changed in 
spirit and intent to fit the government’s aims. The 
relationship between the people and the government, through 
the fervor of the popular Islamic revolt, was significantly 
stengthened. The relationship between the three elements of 

the Clausewitzean trinity were radically redefined and 

However, the revolution was not an unalloyed blessing 
for the military strength of Iran. Between the revolution 
and the Iraqi invasion, almost 60'/. of the army deserted.* 
Those remaining, who had seen their fellow soldiers turn on 
their officers, were undisciplined, unreliable, and restive. 
To make matters worse, two purges removed almost all the 
senior army leadership and 50V. of all officers." Logistical 
support, already riddled with problems, grew rapidly worse 
as western sources of supply were cut off. Technological 
equipment deteriorated for lack, of maintenance and shortage 
of skilled personnel. 

To explain how the revolution enabled that army, which 
had serious flaws to start with, rapidly deteriorating 
equipment, and rebellious personnel, to stop and defeat a 
larger and better equipped invader, is the intent of this 

Effect on the People, Army, Government Relationship. 

Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on public opinion in 
Iran during the revolt is hard to overestimate. Khomeini was 
a popular and acclaimed figure and the revolution was 
nothing if not a populist revolt. In Iraq, and during his 
exile in France, Khomeini’s speeches and philosophy were 
broadcast from mosques throughout Iran. In fact, his exile 

by Saddam Hussein increased his ability to influence the 
Iranian people, and secured his position as sole leader of 
the Islamic revolution.^ So manifest was his popularity* 
acclaim and power, that his return to Iran was a celebration 


and a triumph. Within a few days, even before the post-Shah 
government fell, he appointed a new Prime Minister to form a 
new government.^ 

Khomeini’s primary theme was already deeply ingrained 
in the Iranian Shi’itesj that Islamic law ordained the rules 
of a rightious life? and that disobedience to them was an 
act against Allah and the Koran. Coupled with the real and 
perceived injustices; the Shah’s opulent lifestyle and 
liberal western notions, and the deliberate terror spread by 
his secret organizations, it is small wonder that Khomeini 
founded an enthusiastic audience. 

As this enthusiam turned into revolution, then to a 
revolutionary government guided by Islamic principles, and 
finally to an Islamic Republic at war with an invader, the 
people and the government, which were naturally allied by 
common intent, became further cemented as challenge after 
challenge, both internal and external, were successfully 

As would be expected, the feeling of the people for the 
army was strongly effected by Khomeini’s attitude and 


Khomeini followed two tracks in his attitude toward the 
Shah’s army. He urged the members of the Armed Forces to 
desert and join the revolutioni with considerable effect .^ 3 
At the same time* he urged his followers not to resist the 
army, but to recognize the soldiers as brothers. 

"You must appeal to the soldier’s hearts even if they fire 
on and kill you. Let them kill five thousand, ten thousand, 
twenty thousand—they are our brothers and we welcome them. 
We will prove that blood is more powerful than the sword"' 

Although addressed to the revolutionaries, this was also 
intended for the conscripts. The soldiers, in the opinion of 
Khomeini, were the people also. This might also have 

been a shrewd trick by a skillful revolutionary who intended 
to subvert the military. However, as we shall see, 
Khomeini’s later actions bore out this attitude. He was 
quite supportive of soldiers and officers of good Islamic 
credentials and had no intention of replacing the army. In 
fact, he intended to maintain the army, quite unlike the 
communist leaders of the Tudeh revolutionaries committees. 

He was supportive of the army’s need for discipline and good 
order, and fair to those purged from military service, 
allowing them to retire and specifically according them "the 
rights and respects of all citizens". 

Shortly after the Shah left the country, a large number 


of officers of all grades fled with their families. There 

u>as apparently no wholesale "reign of terror", which 

threatened officers generally, however an officer purge was 

made a top priority to assure the security of the new 


The initial purge in the army was limited to General 

officers and those accused of attrocities. Of the 404 total 

executions during this period, only 26 were General 

Officers, who were, for the most part, of the Shah’s 

security apparatus. The remainder, almost 200, were allowed 

to retire under the provisions of the law.Although many 

other officers were forcibly retired, there is little 

evidence of an indiscriminate housecleaning. In fact, this 

was resisted by the revolutionary government. 

Khomeini recognized the need for a strong military and 

intended to maintain one.^ Consequently, pressure, 

demonstrations, and demands by leftist elements to 

completely disband the army were strongly overruled. 

Khomeini saw these groups, particularly the Tudeh party, as 

a greater danger to the revolution if the army was 

disbanded. Said another way, he felt a greater security 

threat from the rival revolutionary factions than from the 


counter revolutionary threat of the army. 

There was also evident need to keep the army intact, 
aside from the need to balance other radical political 

movements. As with the Shah before him, Khomeini was 
required to use the army in an internal control role to put 
down revolts in the traditional trouble spots! Kurdestan and 
Khuzestan. However, the army was deployed with a newly 
developing force; the Pasdaran or the Islamic Revolutionary 
Guard Corps. 

Khomeini ordered the creation of the Pasdran at about 
the same time as the initial purge in the military was 
taking place. It was apparently intended as the coercive 
wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Party and an additional 
safeguard in the event of the Coup by royalist officers, as 
had occurred when Mossadea had attempted to overthrow the 
Shah in 1953.*^ It eventually reached a strength of about 
30,000 and remained in its internal security role until the 
Iraqi invasion. 

In an effort to support the army as an institution, 

Khomeini issued a number of unequivocal judgements between 

Feb 28, 1979 and December 31, 1979 requiring support for the 

army by the people, the army as the defender of the Islamic 

republic and its servant, and the requirement of discipline 


and good order in the army. 

Finally, in July, 1979, Khomeini issued a general 
amnesty for all individual servicemen, policemen, and even 
members of the Shah’s security apparatus. His amnesty 
statement, which follows, links the three elements of the 
Clausewitzean trinity, indicates his intent to keep those 

three elements; the Iranian army, "the noble people", and 
the government (Khomeini), strongly bonded. 

"The three branches of the Armed forces are thus being 
pardoned, and I and the noble people forgive them."*"* 

However, the second and more thorough purge was about to 

Khomeini was convinced of the necessity of a more 
thorough purge my his new minister of Defense, Mustafa 
Chamran.^ Chamran had considerable military revolutionary 
experience in Lebanon as organizer of the AMAL terrorists 
and as head of Khomeini’s Committee on Revolutionary 
Affairs. Looking on the army as the product of the "Satanic" 
regime and in need of total revision, he began a thorough 
review of all officers at the grade of Major and above; 
those who the Shah had personally selected. 

The purge was thorough, continuing past the Iraqi 
invasion, and its effect was wide spread. Hickman estimates 
that over one third of the field grade officers were removed 
from service, or roughly 9000 army officers. Officers who 
had association with the United States, particularly after 
the abortive hostage rescue attempt, were especially 

Not only were one third of the field grade officer’s 
removed, those removed were the best trained. The Shah had 

sent the best of his officers to be educated abroad, many to 

the United States. Since association with United States was 
evidence of questionable loyalty, most of these officers in 
the army were removed. However, it also meant that those 
officers remaining were loyal to the revolution, and more 
importantly, Islamically purified and committed to carry out 
the government’s agenda. 

In addition, Chamran intended to reduce the army to 
half its prerevolutionary size. Desertion had by and large 
had this affect on the concripted enlisted force, and those 
remaining were, by default, more committed to military 
service under the revolutionary government. 

The end result was not a shortage of trained officers, 
since the size of both the enlisted force and the officer 
corps was cut almost in half, but a definite change in the 
character of the officers and soldiers remaining. Loyalty 
was no longer to the Shah (personal pledges of loyalty were 
removed even before he left), but to the Islamic revolution 
and the military ideals of Islam. In short the army ethic 
was changing from self-serving allegiance to a despot, "the 
web system", to an ethic of military service to the 
revolution and the nation. 

This change of values was also reflecteded in the new 
constitution. Chamran gave the army two specific missions. 
The first was straight forward; to guard Iran’s 
independence, (Not to the Shah or any other individual, as 


under the Pahlavi’s). The Second, was to "safeguard" the 
revolution. Since the Islamic revolution was explicitly 
defined as pan-islamic and international in scope, this 
mission had international dimensions. 

"Our defensive forces, therefore, should be intrusted not 

only with the duties of safeguarding our country's 

frontiers; they should also be capable of waging doctrinal 

jihad in the name of Allah and the extension of His domain." 

1 -7 

—The Iranian Constitution, 19S3. 

The army, having accepted the dual missions, needed the 
support of the government, and Chamran stressed the 
requirement for obedience to the chain of command, 
irrespective of revolutionary councils or zealous clergy. 

The councils were free to express their advice, but 
"the business of command belongs to the commander and the 
councils will not have the right to interfere in the affairs 
of the command" 

Although this reduced the discipline problem, other 

factions, notably the Tudeh party, continued to encourage 

the revolutionary councils. 

Most important, however, for the people, army, 

government relationship was Chamran's vision of the 

organization of the Iranian Islamic army. First, the 

barriers between the army and people were to be reduced by 

eliminating class barriers and progandizing the army as the 

i o 

nation's defender and protector of the revolution. In part 


this was intended to provide greater security for the 
government, which felt more confidence in the support of the 
people then the yet untested army; but it was also the 
observation by Khomeini’s defense advisers that the "class 
rigidity” of the Shah’s army was a reflection of 
pre-revolutionary Iran and would not stand up in the 
protracted warfare anticipated. 

Second, the entire nation was to become an army. with 
the military professiona1s providing the expertise.^® 

"We believe that the entire Iranian nation should 
become the soldiers of the revolution.... The army should 
also be turned into a specialised and modern technical 
cadre."—Chamran, October 9, 1979.^ 

The army would be a small cadre of professionals with a 
very large trained reserve; in fact the army and the people 
were intended to have the same military purpose and really 
be separate components of the same system. Khomeini’s 
announcement, shortly after Chamran’s statement on October 
9th, of the formation of the "Army of 20 Million" began a 
comprehensive program of military training in factories, 
schools, and on television, complete with staff planning for 
general mobilization. The "Army of 20 Million" was sometimes 
refferred to as the Bassej volunteers. 

Third, the army and army Officers were to stay strictly 
out of politics. This last was also intended to ’nhance the 

security of the government; however, 

it had the indirect 

effect of clarifying the army, government relationship and 
enhancing the army’s professional ethic. As stated by 
Clausewitz, "Political aims are the business of government 
alone. " 

The revolutionary government took deliberate steps to 
transform the army leadership and organization so that the 
people, the army, and the government had a common goal and 
clear, separate functions. They restored discipline, 
enhanced cohesion, and defined the national objectives and 
military missions. 

This was driven in part by the nature of the populist 
Islamic revolution, in part by other threats to the 
fledgling revolutionary government, and in part by mistrust 
of the old military heirarchy. Although this was not solely 
motivated by a deliberate effort to enhance the military 
power of revolutionary Iran, it had the effect of 
significantly strengthening the bonds between the elements 
of the Clausewitzean trinity, and thereby, the army’s 
Fighting Power. 

Effects of the Revolution the Quality and Quantiy of 

In this section I will explore the effect on the 
Quality and Quantity and equipment and on the Fighting Power 
of the pre-invasion Iranian army. 

As mas noted in earlier chapters, the Quality and 
Quantity of the Iranian army’s equipment mas a reflection of 
the Shah’s military modernization program. Although the 
equipment mas plentiful and the best available, it came from 
mide spread sources outside the country and technical 
maintence personnel mere in short supply. In the best of 
circumstances, logistical problems mere a nightmare. 
Folloming the revolution, things became decidedly morse. 

As noted in Table 4.1, the equipment mas still there, 
but its combat readiness mas rapidly eroding. Defense 
expenditures mere cut over and did stayed relativiely 

constant untl the year folloming the invasion. Of the three 
major portions of the defense expenditures (Personnel, 
Acquistions, and Sustainment), personnel remained about the 
same the first year. Acquistion payments continued in many 
cases until the revolutionary government could take over, 
and in any case, mere dropping before the revolution. The 
third element mas sustainment and maintenance, and it mas 
this area bore the brunt of the 60’/. budget reduction. 

Additionally, the trained technical personnel, largely 
marrant officers, mere anti-shah and made no great effort to 
keep the force in peak, condition during the revolution. In 
any case, during and after the revolution, there mere afar 
more pressing issues in the military than the sustainment 
and repair of equipment. 

Table 4. 1 

Defense Spending (tEil) 
Manpower (000’s) 

Reserves (000’s) 


Armored Fighting Vehicles 

High Performance Aircraft 
Naval Seagoing Warships 





























After 1980, regular manpower dropped to about 607 of 
the 1979 level. However, the reserve manpower and the 
militia began to grow considerably, while the defense budget 
remained relatively stable.^ At the same time, combat 
losses forced the acquisition of new equipment. Therefore, 
once again, little money was available for sustainment and 

Estimates of the operational capability of the military 
equipment after two years of revolutionary government vary 
by type and range from 40/1 to 707. ^ Therefore, even though 
the quantity of equipment stayed the same until the start of 
the war, the quality of the equipment was reduced by about 
507.. (It is also worth noting that after the invasion, the 
ability of Iranian technicians and maintenance personnel to 
repair and rebuild equipment, especially aircraft, was 
"miraculous". This can be attributed to the commitment of 
the support force, although it may also be a testament to 
the courage of the pilots who flew the aircraft. In any 
case, the it is a reflection of the cohesion, morale, 
dedication, in short, the Fighting Power of the Armed 
forces, that allowed it to occur.) 

The erosion of materiel readiness after the revolution 
has applicabi1ity to Van Creveld’s formulation. If Fighting 
Power remained constant, then the Military Worth of the 
Iranian army would have eroded proportiona1ly. However, as 
we saw in Chapter Three, the Iranian Armed forces were able 

and the wartime Islamic revolutionary army> I have relied on 

the combat performance of the army to be the final indicator 

difficult to imagine a harder mission 

rebellions in the years before the revolution! the reports 

■*» Ay 

of rebellion ceased and did not reoccur. 

The New Military Leader 

Among the most important results of the Revolution, as 

demonstrated in the Iran-Iraq war is the new Iranian 

military leader. Repeated purges have purified the officer 

corps, assuring committment, largely apolitical, to the 

Iranian Islamic republic. Officers in key positions in the 

military have repeatedly proven their loyalty by Islamic 

credentials and their service to the government. In 

addition, the crucible of the revolution and the war have 

assured that the successful commanders who passed the acid 

tests of ideology and loyalty have been advanced. The 

process is still ongoing. These officers are unhesitant, 

clear headed combat commanders of powerful courage and 

commitment. They are also ambitious; and their future is 

tied to the future of the revolution.^' 

Two specific examples are in order. The first is the 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colonel Isamel 

Sohrabi, (there appear to be no more promotions to General 

in the Iranian army). Colonel Sohrabi became known as the 

’Butcher of Kurdsitan" during the uprising in 1979-80 for 

his brutal suppression; he also proved capable of doing 

quickly and effectively whatever the government asked him to 

do. The second is Colonel Sayyad Shirazi, Commander of 

Ground Forces, who is now running the war with Iraq. As an 
army Captain, he was recognized as a particularly bloody 
minded and ruthless artillery commander. His rapid 
promotion, and the operational performance of the Iranian 
army is a testament to his skill as a military professional, 
the revolution that gave him the opportunity, and the 


revolutionized Iranian army.^ 

In the final analysis, the major impact of the 
revolution was the change is the Iranian soldier, regular 
and Pasdaran, Baseej volunteer to Chief of Staff. It was 
fundamental and enduring, regardless of future events. After 
si>: years of the most brutal, grinding, combat since the 
World War I, there is no shortage of volunteers, no question 
of retreat, no loss of initiative, no drop in committment, 
no search for compromise or negotiation. There is instead an 
eagerness to destroy the enemy and advance the revolution 
undimmed after si;: years of the hardest fighting imaginable. 
In the words of an American analyst in the Department of 

"All the FlA’s and the M-60’s purchased by the Shah have not 
had one tenth the impact on the war that the tens of 
thousands of illiterate young Iranian peasants have. 

Spending money on the machinery of war--the focus of so much 
effort and debate in the West—remains secondary; the 
central issue is the willingness of the troops to fight, 

Their belief in their cause, and their confidence in their 



1. William F. Hickman, Ravaged and Reborn , p. 

2. Ibid., p. 16. 

3. Shaul Bakhash, The Reign of the Ayatollahs 
and the Islamic Revolution , p. 49. 

4. Ibid., p. 50. 

5. Ibid., p. 51 . 

6. William F. Hickman, Ravaged and Reborn , p. 7. 

7. Mohammed Heikal, Irani the Untold Story , (New 
Yorks Pantheon Books. 1992.), pp. 145-146. 

9. Interview with MAJ Mark Boyer, U.S. Army. Cited 
Officer provided security for Teheran Airport the day the Sh 
left and for several days thereafter. 

9. William F. Hickman, Ravaged and Reborn , p. 9. 

10. Ibid., p. 9. 

11. Nader Entessar, "Military and Politics in the 
Islamic Republic of Iran." p. 9. 

12. Ibid., p. 10., and Hickman, p. 11. 

13. Nader Entessar, "Military and Politics in the 
Islamic Republic of Iran." p. 10. 

14. William F. Hickman, Ravaged and Reborn , p. 11. 

15. Ibid., p. 12. 

16. Ibid. 

17. Extract of the Constitution of the Islamic 
Republic of Iran , as published in Nader Entessar, "Military 
and Politics in the Islamic Republic of Iran," p. 15. 

19. William F. Hickman, Ravaged and Reborn , p. 12. 

19. Nader Entessar, "Military and Politics in the 
Islamic Republic of Iran," p. 14. 

20. William F. Hickman, Ravaged and Reborn, p. 14. 

Chapter Five 


"Parenthetical 1yi it should be noted that the seeds of 
wisdom that are to bear fruit in the intellect are sown 
by critical studies and learned monographs than by insi 
broad impressions and flashes of intuition." 

Carl '-'on Clausewitc 

I. Introduction. 

This final section of the thesis is intended to review 
the major conclusions of the first four chapters, their 
regional implications, and their long term effects. 

II. Major Conclusions. 

The thesis has three logical steps leading to the 
eventual conclusion. First, the Imperial Iranian Armed 
Forces were fundamentally flawed. From its inception under 
Pe:a Shah, the people, army, government trinity had fatal 
cracks. Muhammed Reza Pahlavi, attemptin to build on the 
same foundation, increased the pressure on the people, army, 
government trinity, resulting in a collapse. The weaknesses 
of this trinity was demonstrated by the patent inability of 
the army to defeat the revolution in spite, or even because 
of, the lavish augmentation of equipment. 

Seoond, the Islamic Iranian army, proved to have 
considerable power and resilience in the Iran-Iraq War. 
Surprised by a powerful invader, hampered by desertion, 
eroding equipment, and unreliable logistics, the Iranian 
Armed Forces resisted the attack: and went on the offensive. 
Actions were characterized by unusual courage and fighting 
power, excellent staff work, and operational level planning. 

Third, the change in the Armed Forces was caused by a 

fundamental bonding of the people, army, government trinity, 
uihich in turn was a result of the Iranian revolution. The 
strong bond between Khomeini and the people, and the new 
army legitimacy and ethic, had a multiplicative effect on 
the military capability of the army. The result was an army 
with remarkable resilience, flexibility, and potential for 
growt h. 

Khomeini purged but also restructured the army and 
shaped it to fit a revolutionary Islamic model. The army was 
given two distinct missions; safeguarding Iran’s frontiers! 
and extending the domain of Allah. Formed in the revolution 
and forged on the battlefield, the army developed a new 
legitimacy and professional ethic, outside of personal 
loyalties and political involvement, but founded in duty to 
Allah and the defense of Iran. The army became in law and in 
fact the genuine defender of the people and servant of the 
governmen t. 

The Iranian army is not only stronger and more 
resilient than it predecessors, it is arguably more? powerful 
than its Persian Gulf neighbors. It has beaten back a 
determined and well equipped invader and has has since 
carried the war into Iraqi territory over strong enemy 
opposition, without a reliable ally or logistical support, 
and with very limited air power or high-technology assets. 

This occurred while the quality and quantity of Iran’s 
equipment was eroding. Iran did so when Iraq had both 

monetary and manpower support from the other Arab nations, 
overwhelming air superiority, and reliable logistical 
support. Iran was able to do so because the army was 
fundamentally strengthend by the Islamic revolution 

After si:: years of the most brutal warfare since World 
War I, Iran shows no sign of flagging in its resolve, and 
continues to prosecute the war. Iran gained the initiative 
and has not relinquished it since the the first months of 
the war. It has, in fact, just recently renewed the 
offensive. In the early months of 19S6, Iran successfully 
attacked in two areas; the strategica11y vital A1 Faw 
peninsula, and in Kurdestan. At the time of this writing 
(April, 1986), the front has again stabilized, apparently at 
Iran’s choice, since Iraq appears unable to make any 
substantial reduction in the Iranian gains. 

III. Regional Impact of the War. 

The war has had a long term stabilizing effect on the 
region. As a direct result of the Islamic revolution and the 
Iran-Iraq War, the Persian Gulf was moved to the forefront 
of U.S. strategic interests. It has generated the Carter 
doctrine, which identifies the area as a vital to U.S. 
interests, and two Joint Commands to respond to crises; US 
Central Command and US Readiness Command. The U.S. strategic 
interest, commitment and capability, makes all nations 

concerned with the region more cautious* thereby stabilizing 

the region. 

Additionally, the war has also accelerated the 
development of regional collective security, thereby 
stabilizing the Gulf internally. Through the Gulf 
Cooperation Council (begun in response to the war and to 
fears of the destabilizing effect of the Islamic 
revolution), the nations of the Gulf have now conducted 
joint defense exercises and other collective security 
actions. They have the apparent intent of countering Iran, 
and keeping the Superpowers out of the Gulf. These 
developments would not have occurred without the Iran-Iran 
war as a unifying focus. 

Finally, it has also caused a diffusion of the oil 
outlets in the region, reducing the vulnerablity of the 
Gulf’s oil LOC’s to interdiction. The war has caused Iraq, 
Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, to build new oil pipelines 
from the oil fields to ports on the Mediteranean, the Red 
Sea, and below the Straits of Hormuz; all outside the Gulf. 
It has also made defense of the oil ports inside the Gulf of 
vital importance in the planning new facilities and the 
defense and restructuring old ones. This construction is 
difficult and expensive at a time when oil revenues are 
falling, and would not have taken place without the manifest 

This is likely to have a long term 


threat of war. 

stabilizing effect on the export of oil from the region; far 
more than would have occurred without the war. 

On the other hand, the end of the war will likely 
destabilize the region. When the war ends, the Iranian Army, 
which is committed to the extension of the revolution, 
trained in battle, and supported by a largely unencumbered 
policy of state terrorism, will be free to meddle wherever 
it chooses. As was noted, Khomeini can carry a grudge a long 
time, and is unlikely to forget that the Persian Gulf 
nations, without exception, supported Iraq. Should the war 
end without a change in Iranian policies, the Iranian Armed 
Forces, ideologically committed and hardened to war, could 
have a destabilizing effect on the Persian Gulf, Lebanon, 
and in other areas of Iranian interest. 

To this must be added the influence of Iranian threats 
and the perception of power outside of direct military 
action. The Gulf nations have learned Iran is an implacable, 
determined enemy. Post war Iranian threats will have 
tremendous credibility, and resultant influence on the Gulf 

IV. Post War Iranian Army 

The present Iranian military capability is matched by 
its potential for military power growth. It has the national 
will, the motive, the opportunity, and the capability, to 
become the dominant regional power in a globally vital area. 

Iranian national will* demonstrated by its 
intransigence and iron resolve in the face of enormous 
difficulties* is documented by its wartime performance over 
the last si;: years. It has genuine* credible motives to 
exercise its military powers retribution for support of Irag 
during the war and constitutionally mandated "doctrinal 
jihad" to extend the Islamic revolution. Opportunity is 
evident in Iran’s proximity to the monarchial and autocratic 
governments of the Gulf. These governments are vulnerable to 
insurgency and terrorism, particularly assassination. 

Iran’s potential military capability has three 
elements? fighting power, revenue base, and militarily 
significant demographics. The fighting power of the Iranian 
Army is well documented and the potential for military power 
growth is evident. If it developed a sound logistical base, 
or was confident of reliable logistical support, it could 
have unparalleled power in the region. 

Iran also has a reliable revenue base in its petroleum 
production. As was noted, it was able to increase its 
wartime oil production to the OPEC ceiling, in spite of 
Iraqi actions. Freed from wartime costs and interruptions, 
Iran’s revenue base, purchasing ability and legitimate 
financial power will increase. 

It also has a large and growing military male age 
population. As noted in earlier tables, it has a population 
of approximately 45 million, of which roughly 21 million are 

males between 15 and 25. Iran’s population grows at about 3V. 
annually. Put another way, 600,000 military age males are 
added every year. More than 2 million males had military 
combat experience by the end of 1994. This was almost three 
times all the other Gulf nations put together. Only 500,000 
of these had combat experience, mostly Iraqis. In addition, 

Iran’s literacy rate of 50M is the highest in the Gulf, next 
to Kuwait. (Figures not listed in Tables 3. 1,3.2, ans 4.1 
are from The Internationa1 Institute for Strategic Studies, 


V. U.S. Long Term Strategies. 

U.S. long term interests are straight forward: 
stabilize the oil production, re-establish the continental 
containment of the Soviet Union and counter state terrorism. 

However, strategic goals, no matter how simply stated, do 
not make up a strategy. The U.S. can take four steps to 
achieve these long term strategic goals. 

The initial step would be to support the Gulf 
Cooperation Council <GCC). This collective security 
organizaton has the potential of balancing the power of a 
resurgent Iran, as well as Soviet regional adventurism. 

Since one of the motivations for the development of the GCC 
is to keep the Superpowers out of the Gulf, this policy must 
not appear to foster greater U.S. presence in the Gulf. 

With this in mind we should encourage the GCC’s 


eventual expansion to include Pakistan and Iraq. 

At some 

future time it will also be in Iran’s interest to join, in 
opposition to Soviet expansionism. (This is not without 
precedent; mutual enemies have often joined in a coalition 
in defense against a common threat.) 

Next step is to encourage the GCC to adopt a 
strong Counter-terrorist policy and capabilty. This is 
certainly in their best interest as well as ours, counters 
the primary Iranian potential threat, and would enhance GCC 
and Arab credibility and legitimacy. 

Third, is to maintain a non-aligned Iran. Russia is 
Iran’s traditional enemy, and so long as Iran maintains an 
independent foreign policy, she acts as a bulwark to Soviet 
southward expansion. Also, should the Gulf prove relatively 
resistant to Iranian influence, Iran may turn its military 
capability toward the more obvious danger to Islam and Iran; 
the Soviet occupation anbd oppression of Afghanistan. 

Finally, it is advisable to conclude a defense treaty 
with Iran in the event she is attacked by the Soviet Union. 
Such a treaty could contain any restrictions Iran chooses to 
impose, so long as she would accept U.S. logistical support 
in the event of aggression by the Soviet Union. 

This would exploit the real Iranian military potential 
to our mutual advantage without endangering the region. It 
would also buttress the region against Soviet expansion, 
provide the US with a small degree of influence over Iranian 
policy, and allow more normal relations at a later date. 

This is also not without precedent, although given the 

animosity of the people of Iran to the U.S., such an 
agreement would have to be covert. However, given that Iran 
bought arms from Israel, its sworn enemy, Iran will likely 
adopt a more pragmatic approach to its defense when faced 
with a Soviet threat. 

It is also worth noting that Iran’s potential could as 
easily be turned to the Soviet Union’s advantage, as to the 
advantage of the U.S. It is in our interest to coopt Iran, 
or keep it neutral, if only to prevent the region from 
falling under Soviet influence. 

VI. Summary. 

The Iranian army is a potent military force with the 
potential for considerable growth in real power. It was 
formed in a revolution which has a significance we are just 
begining to understand. The army has directly and indirectly 
altered the regional and strategic balance of power in the 
Persian Gulf and has the potential for even greater 
influence. The war takes place in an area of vital natural 
resources, volatility, and strategic importance to the U.S. 
and the Soviet Union. The war, the Iranian army, and the 
revolution, deserve greater study. 


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A L M U T H A N N A 



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Abrahamiani Ervand. Iran Between Two Revolutions. Frinceton, 
New Jersey; Princeton University Press* 1932. 

Am i rsadegh i * Hossein. Twentieth Century Iran. Heu) Yorks 
Holmes and Meieri 1978. 

B a k h a s h» Shau1. The Reign of the Ayatollahs! Iran and the 
Islamic Revolution. Hew York: Basic Books* 1984. 

Brinton* Crane. The Anatomy of Rg\glut ion. New York: Vintage 
House, 1933. 

Chamran, Mustafa. T he Islamic Resolu t ion and th e Im posed 

War. Translated and edited by the Ministry of Islamic 
Guidance. Teheran: Council for the Celebrations of the 
Third Anniversary of the Victory of the Islamic 
Revolution, 1982. 

Churchill, Winston Spencer. The Grand Alliance . Boston: 
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Cordesman, Anthony H. The Gulf and the Search for Strategic 
Stability: Saudi Arabia, the Military Balance in th e 
G ulf, and the Trends in the Arab-Israeli Military 
Balance . Boulder, Colorado: Westv i ew Press, 1934. 

Grummon, Stephen P. The I ran-1 rag War: Islam Embattled. 

Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Center for 
Strategic Studies and Praeger Publishers, 1952. 

Heikal, Mohammed. I ran: The Untold Story. New York: Pantheon 
Books, 1982. 

Hickman, William F. Ravaged and Reborn: The Iranian Army, 

1982. Brookings Institute, 1982. 

Ismael, Tareg v . Iran and Iran: Roots of Conflict, Syracuse, 
New York: Syracuse University Press, 1950. 

heddie, Nikki R. Roots of Revolution: An Interpretive 

History of Modern Iran. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale 
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Keddie, Nikki P. Peligion and Politics in Iran . 

Yale University Press, 1983. 

New Haven 

The Iranian 

Keddie, Nikki and Hogland, Eric., eds. , 

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Khadduri, Ma,j id. The Development of Imami Sni’i Doctrine . 
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Spiritualities . Council for the Celebrations of the 
Third Anniversary of the Victory of the Islamic 
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Leege, David and Francis, Wayne L. Political Research, 
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O’Donnell, Terence. Garden of the Brave in War. New York: 
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Pah 1avi,Mohammed Reza, Answer to History. New York: Stein 
and Day, 19S1. 

Pahlavi, Mohammed Peza, Mission for my Country. New York: 
McGraw Hill, 1962. 

Slim, Sir William. Defeat into Victory. New York: David 
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Van Creveld, Martin. Fighting Power: German Military 
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Von Clausewitz, Carl. On War. Translated and edited by 

Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Princeton, New Jersey: 
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Pah 1avi . Tehran, Iran: Ministry of Culture and Arts 
Press, 1971. 

TT’ W * >' * V «V W W *V « V T U 1 U « W H i m !.% ' ?T '.■! '.V ^^7 T 

'.■ '.• <T -.’ 'J'-vt ■*■ 


Clifton, Tony. ” ’ I am Fighting for Iran—And for Islam’.", 
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Cottrell, Alvin J. "Iran’s Armed Forces under the Pahlavi 
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Cordesman, Anthony H. "Lessons in the Iran-Iraq War: the 
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Esposito, John L. "Islam in Politics in the Middle East.", 
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Economist, The. November 1973, February 19S1, March 1986, 

and April, 198,6. The Economist proved very useful for a 
comparison of immediate views of wartime actions, and 
for it subsequent analysis. I found that in most cases 
its long term projections were quite good, although 
the distaste for the government of Iran was also 

"I ran/Iraq War.", US Department of State Bulletin. Vol. 85, 
Number 2105, December, 1985. 

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the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, Vol. IX, 
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Uneasy Symbiosis.", Kedourie, Elie and Haim, Sylvia G. 
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Perspective.", American Historical Review. Vol 89, 

Olson, William J. "The Iran-Iraq War and the Future of the 
Persian Gulf.", Bloom, John D. ed., Military Review. 

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College, March, 1984. 

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Affairs. , February, 1935. 

Rubinstein, Alvin Z. "Perspectives on the Iran-Iraq War.", 
Orbis. , Fall 1935. 

Staudenmaier, William 0. "A Strategic Analysis.", Tahir - 
Kheli, Shir in and Ayubi, Shaheen, eds., The Iran-Iraq 
War! Mew Weapo n s, Old Conflicts ., New York! Praeger 
Publishers, 1983. 

"The Middle East and the Gulf.", Strategic Survey! 

1°79—19SQ. , London! Internationa1 Institute for 
Strategic Studies, 1980. Subsequent II3S issues through 
1985 were also used. 

Vought, Donald. "Iran.", Gabriel, Richard, ed., Fig h tin r 
Armies! Antagonists in the Middle East! A Combat 
Assessment. London! Greenwood Press, 1983. 



Entessar, Nader. "Military and Politics in the Islamic Republic 
of Iran.", Department of Political Science, Spring Hill 
College, Mobile, Alabama. Paper prepared for presentation at 
the 19th Annual Meeting of the Middle East Studies 
Association, New Orleans, Louisiana, November 22-26, 19S5. 

22-26, 19S5. 

Smith, John M. "Where was the Shah’s Army?", Thesis prepared for 
the US Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, 
Kansas, 1974. 


Available classified publications were reviewed. As it was not 
necessary to extract material nor footnote these publications, 
they are not listed. Classified references are available from the 


1. Combined Arms Research Library 

U.S. Army Command and General Staff College 
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027 

Defense Technical Institute Information Center 
Cameron Station 
Alexandria, Virginia 22314 

3. Dr. George W. Gawrych 

Combat Studies Institute 

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-6900 

4. Dr. Bobby L. Childress 

Department of Joint and Combined Operations 

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-6900 

5. MAJ Fred Downey 

Department of Joint and Combined Operations 

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-6900 


6. COL Richard Sinnreich 

School of Advanced Military Studies 

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-6900 

7. LTC William Randall 

Center for Army Leadership 

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-6900 

8. MAJ Richard Joslyn 

Department of Tactics 

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-6900 



COL William Taylor, Ret. 

Director, Center for Strategic and International Studies 
1800 K Street 
Washington, D.C. 20001 

COL William 0. Staudenmaier 

U.S. Army War College 

Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvannia 


Professor Nader Entessar 
Department of Political Science 
Spring Hill College, Mobile Alabama